Distinct from run-of-the-mill argument arcs requiring apology before reconciliation, this alternate model provokes thought.

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HEY, PRESTO!

A magic act goes temporarily awry when a bossypants walks all over his best mate.

Presto is a sweet-looking, big-headed, blue cat. Monty’s probably a dog, with brown fur and a big snout. They “didn’t have much, but it didn’t matter. They were best friends and they were happy.” They do look happy in their alley, complete with trash can, suitcase and two cardboard boxes; however, googly eyes hint at upcoming relational inequality. Monty grandstands, waving a bone and crossing his eyes at nobody in particular, while Presto gazes straight at him adoringly. When they perform a public magic show, it’s Presto’s technical magic expertise that makes showman Monty shine. Then Monty’s ego grows until he’s so self-centered and domineering that a dejected Presto must walk away, leaving Monty to fail in his biggest show ever. (Media-savvy kids may call shenanigans on a magic show being “on television”—couldn’t it be just digital fakery?) Watching TV, Presto sees Monty’s presentation collapsing and “c[a]n’t bear it.” He returns, and they make up. Shireen’s glossy multimedia artwork has a cheery, two-dimensional feeling. Visual jokes (Monty reads Easy Peasy Magic upside down), speech bubbles (“Hey, Presto! Get me chocolate ice cream, with extra sprinkles—now!”), and the techniques behind Presto’s tricks add to interest.

Distinct from run-of-the-mill argument arcs requiring apology before reconciliation, this alternate model provokes thought. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-375-86905-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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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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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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