PENNY AND THE PLAIN PIECE OF PAPER

A character, bored of the piece of paper she exists on, ventures forth.

From pigtails (three, going straight upward) through football-shaped head and skinny limbs to high heels, Penny is entirely made up of rainbow-colored scribbly lines. No wonder she finds it so monotonous to loll about on an undecorated white sheet of paper. Her eyelids droop with ennui. However, Penny’s “plain piece of paper” is anything but. Slightly smaller than—and set askew from—the page of Leshem-Pelly’s actual book, Penny’s piece of paper has mild crinkles and the faint shading that those crinkles bring, creating an optical illusion that begs to be touched. It seems impossible for Leshem-Pelly’s page to feel perfectly smooth, but of course it does. Penny visits other types of paper: an amusingly dull and pompous newspaper, a map with trompe-l’oeil folds, a coloring book. All are hyper-realistic in their portrayal of the material, and each forces an oppressive aesthetic rule on Penny. The arc’s explicit message (“Let’s make our own rules!”) is forgettable, but Penny’s journey through varying visual styles is bright, fascinating, and funny, especially when she busts out of a geometric shape that graph paper bullies her into or when a pair of children (one black, one white) cheerfully offers gifts—and offers gifts, and offers gifts. Their textured and confettied realm is, of course, wrapping paper with a repeating design.

Irresistibly touchable. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984-81272-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

HOME

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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