A superb, beautifully moving collaboration of text and illustration.

WISHES

The story of a young refugee’s flight from home is told through a series of wishes made by inanimate objects.

“The night wished it was quieter,” reads the first of 12 wishes that tell the story of a family’s journey across the sea to a better life. A somber palette and perfectly chosen scenes illustrate each object’s wish, giving shape to the story that unfolds. The bag that family members pack with rice packets “wished it was deeper.” The clock, at departure time, “wished it was slower,” as an older man embraces two children with tears in his eyes. The winding, ominous path on which the oldest child and mother walk (she carries both an infant in a sling and her middle child on her back) “wished it was shorter.” And the boat that they board, packed to the edges with passengers, “wished it was bigger.” Each simple statement, accompanied by its heart-rending visual element, takes readers along on this harrowing journey. When the final wish arrives (the only to employ the first person), the one sentence spans four double-page spreads of visual storytelling that evoke the joy and release of so many heightened emotions. Details in every illustration convey an Asian setting, though readers in the know will recognize distinctly Vietnamese particulars. Backmatter explains how the author’s own family escaped from Vietnam in the 1980s.

A superb, beautifully moving collaboration of text and illustration. (author's note, artist's note) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-30589-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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THIS BOOK IS GRAY

A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A quiet, thought-provoking story of environmental change and the power humans have to slow it.

THE OLD BOAT

A multigenerational tale of a boat’s life with a Black family, written by two brothers who loved similar boats.

In the opening spread, a smiling, brown-skinned adult dangles a line from the back of a green-and-white boat while a boy peers eagerly over the side at the sea life. The text never describes years passing, but each page turn reveals the boy’s aging, more urban development on the shore, increasing water pollution, marine-life changes (sea jellies abound on one page), and shifting water levels. Eventually, the boy, now a teenager, steers the boat, and as an adult, he fishes alone but must go farther and farther out to sea to make his catch. One day, the man loses his way, capsizes in a storm, and washes up on a small bay island, with the overturned, sunken boat just offshore. Now a “new sailor” cleans up the land and water with others’ help. The physical similarities between the shipwrecked sailor and the “new sailor” suggest that this is not a new person but one whose near-death experience has led to an epiphany that changes his relationship to water. As the decaying boat becomes a new marine habitat, the sailor teaches the next generation (a child with hair in two Afro puffs) to fish. Focusing primarily on the sea, the book’s earth-toned illustrations, created with hundreds of stamps, carry the compelling plot.

A quiet, thought-provoking story of environmental change and the power humans have to slow it. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-00517-9

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Norton Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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