Sublime.

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CRESCENDO

An artistic meditation on gestation.

Turning publishing convention on its head, the illustrations came first in this stunning, extra-long picture book. Sanna’s watercolors, originally created for a wordless book published in Italy, depict the nine months of human gestation with sequential spreads of a pregnant woman’s growing torso, crescendoing to birth. Her belly increasingly protrudes with successive page turns, but it is not merely a woman standing still; instead, the illustrations can be read both as an expectant mother’s body and as the curved wings of a sea gull, the arc of a whale’s tail, and the sloping descent of a hillside. This merging of the body and the natural world emphasizes humanity’s place in the circle of life while presenting breathtaking visuals. The accompanying, poetic text guides readers through successive images, shifting focus to the developing fetus through direct address. “Month 4” reads, for example: “And while you are still learning to breathe / Patterns are drawn on your fingertips for you and you alone.” Corresponding backmatter pages offer “Developmental Facts that Inspired the Text” (which, unfortunately, are unsourced). For Month 4 this expository text reads, in part, “The fetus’s lungs are not completely formed yet, but it has started to practice respiratory movements. Fingerprints and footprints are being defined.” It’s a sophisticated offering, perhaps better suited for baby showers than nurseries, but it’s lovely all the same.

Sublime. (Picture book. 5-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59270-255-8

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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Worthy of a superhero.

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EL DEAFO

A humorous and touching graphic memoir about finding friendship and growing up deaf.

When Cece is 4 years old, she becomes “severely to profoundly” deaf after contracting meningitis. Though she is fitted with a hearing aid and learns to read lips, it’s a challenging adjustment for her. After her family moves to a new town, Cece begins first grade at a school that doesn’t have separate classes for the deaf. Her nifty new hearing aid, the Phonic Ear, allows her to hear her teacher clearly, even when her teacher is in another part of the school. Cece’s new ability makes her feel like a superhero—just call her “El Deafo”—but the Phonic Ear is still hard to hide and uncomfortable to wear. Cece thinks, “Superheroes might be awesome, but they are also different. And being different feels a lot like being alone.” Bell (Rabbit & Robot: The Sleepover, 2012) shares her childhood experiences of being hearing impaired with warmth and sensitivity, exploiting the graphic format to amplify such details as misheard speech. Her whimsical color illustrations (all the human characters have rabbit ears and faces), clear explanations and Cece’s often funny adventures help make the memoir accessible and entertaining. Readers will empathize with Cece as she tries to find friends who aren’t bossy or inconsiderate, and they’ll rejoice with her when she finally does. An author's note fleshes out Bell's story, including a discussion of the many facets of deafness and Deaf culture.

Worthy of a superhero. (Graphic memoir. 8 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4197-1020-9

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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Science at its best: informative and gross.

DO NOT LICK THIS BOOK

Why not? Because “IT’S FULL OF GERMS.”

Of course, Ben-Barak rightly notes, so is everything else—from your socks to the top of Mount Everest. Just to demonstrate, he invites readers to undertake an exploratory adventure (only partly imaginary): First touch a certain seemingly blank spot on the page to pick up a microbe named Min, then in turn touch teeth, shirt, and navel to pick up Rae, Dennis, and Jake. In the process, readers watch crews of other microbes digging cavities (“Hey kid, brush your teeth less”), spreading “lovely filth,” and chowing down on huge rafts of dead skin. For the illustrations, Frost places dialogue balloons and small googly-eyed cartoon blobs of diverse shape and color onto Rundgren’s photographs, taken using a scanning electron microscope, of the fantastically rugged surfaces of seemingly smooth paper, a tooth, textile fibers, and the jumbled crevasses in a belly button. The tour concludes with more formal introductions and profiles for Min and the others: E. coli, Streptococcus, Aspergillus niger, and Corynebacteria. “Where will you take Min tomorrow?” the author asks teasingly. Maybe the nearest bar of soap.

Science at its best: informative and gross. (Informational picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-17536-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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