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This sweet tale of ingenuity and kindness to all creatures tries, but it does not fully measure up to its potential.

How do you stop elephants from trampling your orchard, damaging your trees, and destroying your ripe clementines every night?

Young Fatima, dark-haired, dark-eyed, and brown-skinned, lives with her bearded, turbaned grandfather in an unnamed country. They take care of their clementine orchard, which is their livelihood, with the help of the spiders that eat tree-destroying insects. But when those sweet, ripe clementines attract an elephant mama and two baby elephants, neither loud noises, buckets of water, nor thrown pistachios will distract them. How can their trees and their fruit be saved? Grandfather buys a rifle and three bullets, but can Fatima find a more peaceful solution? She encourages her spider friends to spin a thick wall of webs around the orchard, which repels the elephants. Illustrations by Grimard are gorgeous, mostly in warm hues of orange, brown, and blue, with expressive faces and hardly any specific ethnic touches. The text, dramatic and occasionally heavy-handed, is Messier’s own translation of her French text, first published in 2012. The book concludes with an adaptation of the Ethiopian proverb that says “When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion,” rendering it as “When spider webs unite, they can stop elephants” and calling it simply a generic “African proverb.”

This sweet tale of ingenuity and kindness to all creatures tries, but it does not fully measure up to its potential. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-88995-529-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Red Deer Press

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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