A buoyant authorial debut spoiled by some unexamined assumptions.

READ REVIEW

THE STRAY

Challenges both unique and familiar await a family that takes in a (literally) otherworldly stray.

For her first solo outing, Ruttan unspools a narrative that could apply to any terrestrial animal: “He didn’t have a collar, and he didn’t have a tag…so we brought him home.” She pairs it with sprightly views of a human family laying out bowls and bedding on the kitchen floor for Grub,” a doglike (if stalk-eyed) creature pulled from a crashed flying saucer. At first Grub exuberantly emits anti-gravity waves that create glorious chaos (“He wasn’t even housebroken”), but when, rather than settle in, he turns mopey, the family puts out “Found” posters. Soon a larger saucer swoops down to beam him back aboard. “We were sad Grub had to leave, but it felt good to know he was happy and was back with his family.” His rescuers are never seen aside from similar eyes on stalks viewed through windows. Read one way this makes a droll and cozy tale…but if seen as a riff on E.T. (“Grub” evidently piloted his own saucer), it’s discomfiting to see a stranded, sapient stranger treated as a pet, kitted with a cute name, given a bone to chew, and leashed for a walk outside. Subtle differences in the features and skin color of the human family’s two parents hint that they might be an interracial couple, though that too is left ambiguous.

A buoyant authorial debut spoiled by some unexamined assumptions. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-51446-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A close encounter of the best kind.

FIELD TRIP TO THE MOON

Left behind when the space bus departs, a child discovers that the moon isn’t as lifeless as it looks.

While the rest of the space-suited class follows the teacher like ducklings, one laggard carrying crayons and a sketchbook sits down to draw our home planet floating overhead, falls asleep, and wakes to see the bus zooming off. The bright yellow bus, the gaggle of playful field-trippers, and even the dull gray boulders strewn over the equally dull gray lunar surface have a rounded solidity suggestive of Plasticine models in Hare’s wordless but cinematic scenes…as do the rubbery, one-eyed, dull gray creatures (think: those stress-busting dolls with ears that pop out when squeezed) that emerge from the regolith. The mutual shock lasts but a moment before the lunarians eagerly grab the proffered crayons to brighten the bland gray setting with silly designs. The creatures dive into the dust when the bus swoops back down but pop up to exchange goodbye waves with the errant child, who turns out to be an olive-skinned kid with a mop of brown hair last seen drawing one of their new friends with the one crayon—gray, of course—left in the box. Body language is expressive enough in this debut outing to make a verbal narrative superfluous.

A close encounter of the best kind. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4253-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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Patchy work, both visually and teleologically.

YOU'RE HERE FOR A REASON

The sultana of high-fructose sentimentality reminds readers that they really are all that.

Despite the title, we’re actually here for a couple of reasons. In fulsome if vague language Tillman embeds one message, that acts of kindness “may triple for days… / or set things in motion in different ways,” in a conceptually separate proposition that she summarizes thus: “perhaps you forgot— / a piece of the world that is precious and dear / would surely be missing if you weren’t here.” Her illustrations elaborate on both themes in equally abstract terms: a lad releases a red kite that ends up a sled for fox kits, while its ribbons add decorative touches to bird nests and a moose before finally being vigorously twirled by a girl and (startlingly) a pair of rearing tigers. Without transition the focus then shifts as the kite is abruptly replaced by a red ball. Both embodied metaphors, plus children and animals, gather at the end for a closing circle dance. The illustrator lavishes attention throughout on figures of children and wild animals, which are depicted with such microscopically precise realism that every fine hair and feather is visible, but she then floats them slightly above hazy, generic backdrops. The overall design likewise has a slapdash feel, as some spreads look relatively crowded with verses while others bear only a single line or phrase.

Patchy work, both visually and teleologically. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05626-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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