Not much happens, but it’s gorgeous to look at.

THE DOG’S GARDENER

A dog muses about a peaceful day in the garden with a favorite human.

Narrated from the point of view of the dog, this gentle story has peace and soothing ambiance on its side. What it does not have, however, is a riveting storyline. Dutch, the dog, pretends to be asleep as the titular gardener, a young woman (illustrated with pale skin and red hair), goes down to her breakfast. When she calls the dog (this is why Dutch pretends to be asleep, the dog tells readers, to hear her “gentle voice” calling), they go outside together. There, the young woman begins to work in her garden while Dutch observes. The young woman digs garden beds (the dog approves), they rest, Dutch plays with the water hose, they go home at twilight. Where the narrative lacks pizzazz, however, the illustrations are another story. Luscious, rich depth of color and effective visual design combine with a delicate play of light and shadow to create a serene, calming atmosphere all on its own, without any words. Light-filled indoor and outdoor scenes of the sunniest complementary colors are joyous in their combinations of patterns. The illustrations prioritize the dog's viewpoint; a few show the dog prominently while the woman's torso, but not head, is shown—a clever tactic to keep the illustrative focus on the doggy perspective. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.3-by-16.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 40% of actual size.)

Not much happens, but it’s gorgeous to look at. (Picture book. 3-10)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77306-256-3

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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As insubstantial as hot air.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life.

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BE YOU!

An inspirational picture book offers life advice for readers who want to be themselves.

Replete with sparkling, often quirky illustrations of children living their best lives, this book is a gorgeous guidebook for those seeking encouragement while encountering life’s challenges. The children featured—a racially diverse group ranging from infants to preschoolers—cheerfully navigate the various injunctions that flow through the text: “Be curious.…Be adventurous.…Be persistent.…Be kind.” What is remarkable about the book is that even though the instructions and the brief sentences explaining them are at times vague, the illustrations expand on them in ways readers will find endearing and uplifting. Those depicting painful or challenging moments are especially effective. The “Be persistent” double-page spread shows a child in a boat on stormy seas; it’s rich with deep blues as it emphasizes the energy of wind and rain and struggle in the face of challenge. Together with the accompanying repeated phrase “Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop,” this spread arrests readers. By contrast, the “Be kind. Be understanding” spread simply presents two children’s faces, one cast in blue and the other in gold, but the empathy that Reynolds conveys is similarly captivating. While there is no plot to pull readers through the pages, the book provides rich fodder for caregivers to use as teachable moments, both informally and in classroom settings.

Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-57231-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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