THE KEY TO MY HEART

Newcomer Harel recounts a story of a pleasingly ordinary day accompanied by mildly amicable artwork that sports just the right touch. It’s a simple story that nonetheless possesses the tug of affection: A boy and his father puzzling through where the father might have left his keys, retracing his steps after he left work to pick up the boy, Jonathan, at school. The bunch of keys is on a key chain that sports a picture of Jonathan, so the keys are both easily identifiable and special. They troop like a couple of chums from the post office to the pizza place to the greengrocer—all of which might leave readers with a sense that Jonathan’s father leads a pretty cushy existence—but don’t find the keys until they get home and Jonathan’s mother hands them over. Found in the schoolyard, where they fell out of the father’s pocket when he was playing soccer with Jonathan, they were sent home when the photograph on the chain told who they belonged to. Abulafia, probably best known for her charming illustrations for Barbara Porte’s Harry books, uses the same easygoing style, here, depicting a cozy neighborhood with a few humorous touches (check out the rat coming up out of the sewer grate or the wildly styled barber who is on their path.) The book does have a couple oddments: Why was it necessary to have Jonathan’s father late to pick him up? Why does Jonathan ask what the picture on the chain is for? But they just work themselves into the tale, a slice of everyday where not everything is expected, nor needs, to make sense. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-929132-40-9

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Kane Miller

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2003

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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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A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.

ROBOBABY

Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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