Readers will find both consolation and encouragement on every visit to this emotionally resonant, evocative story.

READ REVIEW

THE UNCORKER OF OCEAN BOTTLES

A man who delivers messages sent via ocean bottle longs for a message of his own.

With his pale skin and expressive eyebrows, the otherwise nameless Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, a white man who could be any age from young adult to elderly, is the very picture of quiet, determined, and lonely. How he came by his job isn’t told, but it is clear he takes it seriously, understanding the importance of the communications he brings. Cuevas’ poetic language plays with meter and words, as when he contemplates the improbability of receiving a message of his own: “But he still would have liked it just the same.” Stead’s illustrations in woodblock, oil pastels, and pencil seem to enfold her subject. His cat comes along on some of his missions, while various birds of sea and shore appear along his way like guiding spirits in the sun or rain or snow. When a message—an invitation to a party at the seashore—arrives with no definite sender or recipient, the Uncorker shares it with several people—and then goes himself. The people of the town, dark- and white-skinned neighbors gathered on the beach, suggest a community that perhaps already knows and certainly embraces him.

Readers will find both consolation and encouragement on every visit to this emotionally resonant, evocative story. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3868-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Lost and found was never so riotously funny or emotionally draining.

DON'T FORGET DEXTER!

A lost toy goes through an existential crisis.

The setup is on the copyright page. Amid the markers of a universally recognizable waiting room—fish tank, chairs against the wall, receptionist’s window, kids’ coloring table—is a tiny orange T. Rex with a dialogue balloon: “Hello?” A turn of the page brings Dexter T. Rexter into close view, and he explains his dilemma directly to readers. He and his best friend came for a checkup, but Jack’s disappeared. Maybe readers can help? But when Jack is still MIA, Dexter becomes disconsolate, believing his friend might have left him behind on purpose; maybe he likes another toy better? Dexter weighs his good qualities against those he lacks, and he comes up short. But when readers protest (indicated by a change in Dexter’s tone after the turn of the page), Dexter gains the determination he needs to make a plan. Unfortunately, though hilariously, his escape plan fails. But luckily, a just-as-upset black boy comes looking for Dexter, and the two are reunited. Ward’s ink, colored-pencil, and cut-paper illustrations give readers a toy’s view of the world and allow children to stomp in Dexter’s feet for a while, his facial expressions giving them lots of clues to his feelings. Readers will be reminded of both Knuffle Bunny and Scaredy Squirrel, but Dexter is a character all his own.

Lost and found was never so riotously funny or emotionally draining. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4727-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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