Traveling via telephone sounds nifty; it doesn't work, though, in this skippable story.


A telephone transports a girl to her favorite place.

Paris-loving Josephine Harris constantly compares that city to her home—unfavorably. (It’s never explained how Josephine has acquired her enthusiasm for all things French, but it sure is energetic.) Annoyed and on a deadline, Mommy sends Josephine to her room. Incensed, Josephine picks up her phone to call for a replacement parent. After dozing off, she awakens in Paris and is welcomed by Odile, a Frenchwoman who invites Josephine to join her and her son on a city tour; as they go, Odile teaches her French. The adventure includes a visit to an art museum, the ballet, a cafe, and the Eiffel Tower; Odile urges Josephine to remain in Paris permanently. In the end, our heroine decides home is best; she misses Mommy. Trying the phone again at bedtime, Josephine awakens and…voilà! Back home, another international destination teases. This is meant to be lighthearted fare, and it’s narrated in jaunty (though sometimes clunky) verse. Strolling beside the Seine with her companions, Josephine learns that France is “ze nation / zat is always on vacation.” Odile’s stereotypical fake-French accent may strike more than a few as insulting. Quirky, colorful illustrations are expressive; familiar Parisian landscapes are depicted appealingly. The main characters present White, but readers will spot racially diverse boulevardiers in the background. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 48.6% of actual size.)

Traveling via telephone sounds nifty; it doesn't work, though, in this skippable story. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-399-16506-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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


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.


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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