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THE BOOK ABOUT NOTHING

Reading this book might not be for nothing…but it begs the question: is nothing really something? And more importantly, is...

Here’s a book that takes nothing seriously.

The opening pages explicitly list all the things that it is not about: rainbows, socks, meatballs, doctors, tacos, princesses, and underpants are on that list. Instead, it sets out to explore the concept of nothing. The narrator is depicted as a dodo wearing a monocle, and its tone is that of an adult talking to a small child. Almost all the pages have something child readers and adult caregivers can relate to, from picking up toys (“there will be nothing on the floor”) and finishing meals (“there will be nothing left”) to noises in the dark (don’t worry—it’s nothing!). Bender (Awkward Family Photos, 2010) and Murphy’s (T-Rex Trying, 2014) picture book elicits a chuckle, and the predominantly black and white images with bold splashes of color are at times endearing. Line-drawn cartoon animals, fairly realistically rendered save for the anthropomorphic props, pose in appropriately negative space, occasional details (the dodo’s yellow bill and feet, an anteater’s red-and-white–checked neckerchief, a crocodile’s purple pajamas) picked out in bright, matte color. However, although it constantly and positively reframes nothing as something, the picture book leaves readers wondering whether “nothing” can always ethically be equated to a thing of value.

Reading this book might not be for nothing…but it begs the question: is nothing really something? And more importantly, is (doing/being/saying) nothing always OK? (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-55109-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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HEY, DUCK!

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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