Stunning illustrations and a quiet appreciation of the natural world combine to create a positive message about change.

READ REVIEW

TEN BEAUTIFUL THINGS

The simple act of looking for beautiful things can help make life itself beautiful again.

Change isn’t easy, especially for a young girl named Lily who must move—without parents—from the city across Iowa to Gram’s farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. The reason for Lily’s move is not explained, but all her things are packed in Gram’s car for the daylong journey. When Gram first suggests finding “ten beautiful things along the way,” Lily sees “nothing beautiful.” But soon Lily gasps at the “very moment…the sun [breaks] over the long horizon.” Beautiful thing No. 1. Lechuga’s emotion-laden cameos of Lily in the back seat capture the child’s grief and anxiety, described as “complaints starting in her belly again, coming up her throat, and nearly out her mouth.” Luckily, beautiful things change Lily’s mood. Lily breathes in the smell of mud at a rest area, and the smell “pour[s] itself into some of the empty spaces in her.” Other beautiful things help: a wind farm with white vanes whirling against a violet sky, a red-winged blackbird “perched on a swaying stalk of last year’s corn,” and even a “falling-apart barn” that may be beautiful even if it’s not pretty. Two consecutive spreads capture the force and drama of an Iowa thunderstorm exploding on the plain, which is beautiful thing No. 9. Arriving at Gram’s house, Lily understands that change will not be easy, but she belongs with Gram now: No. 10. Both Lily and Gram present as White.

Stunning illustrations and a quiet appreciation of the natural world combine to create a positive message about change. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-58089-936-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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

THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

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. 26, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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