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

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 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021


Charming and thought-provoking proof that we all contain multitudes.

Oscar winner McConaughey offers intriguing life observations.

The series of pithy, wry comments, each starting with the phrase “Just because,” makes clear that each of us is a mass of contradictions: “Just because we’re friends, / doesn’t mean you can’t burn me. / Just because I’m stubborn, / doesn’t mean that you can’t turn me.” Witty, digitally rendered vignettes portray youngsters diverse in terms of race and ability (occasionally with pets looking on) dealing with everything from friendship drama to a nerve-wracking footrace. “Just because I’m dirty, / doesn’t mean I can’t get clean” is paired with an image of a youngster taking a bath while another character (possibly an older sibling) sits nearby, smiling. “Just because you’re nice, / doesn’t mean you can’t get mean” depicts the older one berating the younger one for tracking mud into the house. The artwork effectively brings to life the succinct, rhyming text and will help readers make sense of it. Perhaps, after studying the illustrations and gaining further insight into the comments, kids will reread and reflect upon them further. The final page unites the characters from earlier pages with a reassuring message for readers: “Just because the sun has set, / doesn’t mean it will not rise. / Because every day is a gift, / each one a new surprise. BELIEVE IT.” As a follow-up, readers should be encouraged to make their own suggestions to complete the titular phrase. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Charming and thought-provoking proof that we all contain multitudes. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9780593622032

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023


Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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