Doesn’t get off the ground.

READ REVIEW

TRAMPOLINE BOY

As one might guess from the book’s title, an otherwise unnamed boy with bangs that cover his eyes is obsessed with bouncing on his trampoline.

He bounces from morning to night, reaching magical heights, from which he is able to see red-winged blackbirds flying past, “airplanes drawing curly-cues,” and “wispy white clouds.” His obsession draws unwelcome attention from passing schoolchildren, who mock his constant bouncing. “Can’t you do anything else?” they taunt. “He is so weird” The boy’s lack of social connection suggests he may be on the spectrum. Only one child is drawn into his bouncy, magical world, an extremely shy and hesitant little girl named Peaches. She watches him for a long time before he notices her. Finally he realizes that Peaches is not mocking and really wants to know “what you see / up there in that blue, blue sky.” They stare into each other’s eyes and, holding hands, they bounce up and up and up. An unusual tall format, ideal for the vertical subject matter, and Arbona’s bright, quirky postmodern illustrations make this an attractive production. Both children have pale skin; Peaches' eyes are open wide, while Trampoline Boy's appear permanently closed when they aren't obscured by his bangs, which heightens his emotional distance. While the connection between outsiders is warming, it is oblique, as wispy as the clouds they bounce through. Safety-conscious adults will suck their teeth at the trampoline, which does not have even a net around it.

Doesn’t get off the ground. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77049-830-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Tundra

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations.

I BELIEVE I CAN

Diversity is the face of this picture book designed to inspire confidence in children.

Fans of Byers and Bobo’s I Am Enough (2018) will enjoy this book that comes with a universal message of self-acceptance. A line of children practices ballet at the barre; refreshingly, two of the four are visibly (and adorably) pudgy. Another group tends a couple of raised beds; one of them wears hijab. Two more children coax a trepidatious friend down a steep slide. Further images, of children pretending to be pirates, dragons, mimes, playing superhero and soccer, and cooking, are equally endearing, but unfortunately they don’t add enough heft to set the book apart from other empowerment books for children. Though the illustrations shine, the text remains pedagogic and bland. Clichés abound: “When I believe in myself, there’s simply nothing I can’t do”; “Sometimes I am right, and sometimes I am wrong. / But even when I make mistakes, I learn from them to make me strong.” The inclusion of children with varying abilities, religions, genders, body types, and racial presentations creates an inviting tone that makes the book palatable. It’s hard to argue with the titular sentiment, but this is not the only book of its ilk on the shelf.

Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266713-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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