An excuse for Czajak to share his love of books with children, this story’s optimistic view of creativity and resistance is...

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THE BOOK TREE

After the mayor bans books, a young boy named Arlo discovers how to grow them.

“Beginnings were always the best part. They smelled as if anything were possible.” Arlo is so absorbed in the book he’s reading up in a tree that it slips from his hands and bonks the mayor on the head. “Books are dangerous!” the mayor cries, and he rips up every book in town. Arlo is sad, but he figures the mayor must be right; after all, he is the mayor. The town changes: Storytime is replaced by nap time; the theaters produce no plays, and the library is empty. Arlo weeps as he writes “The End” in the sand, but writing makes him determined to share stories. Then, from one of the ripped-up pages, the titular tree begins to sprout, and books flourish once more. (Conveniently, the mayor is easily convinced of their value.) Kheiriyeh’s dramatic oil paint–and-collage illustrations, in hues of beige, red, and bright blue, use characters and setting to drive home the message that books bring joy and their absence is all but tragic. The books that grow from the tree contain print in many languages: Korean, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese, and more. Arlo and a number of the other townspeople are brown-skinned, the mayor and others are a shade of beige, and all have blue hair.

An excuse for Czajak to share his love of books with children, this story’s optimistic view of creativity and resistance is fairly irresistible. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-78285-505-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Barefoot

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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A validating and breathtaking next chapter of a Mother Goose favorite.

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AFTER THE FALL (HOW HUMPTY DUMPTY GOT BACK UP AGAIN)

Humpty Dumpty, classically portrayed as an egg, recounts what happened after he fell off the wall in Santat’s latest.

An avid ornithophile, Humpty had loved being atop a high wall to be close to the birds, but after his fall and reassembly by the king’s men, high places—even his lofted bed—become intolerable. As he puts it, “There were some parts that couldn’t be healed with bandages and glue.” Although fear bars Humpty from many of his passions, it is the birds he misses the most, and he painstakingly builds (after several papercut-punctuated attempts) a beautiful paper plane to fly among them. But when the plane lands on the very wall Humpty has so doggedly been avoiding, he faces the choice of continuing to follow his fear or to break free of it, which he does, going from cracked egg to powerful flight in a sequence of stunning spreads. Santat applies his considerable talent for intertwining visual and textual, whimsy and gravity to his consideration of trauma and the oft-overlooked importance of self-determined recovery. While this newest addition to Santat’s successes will inevitably (and deservedly) be lauded, younger readers may not notice the de-emphasis of an equally important part of recovery: that it is not compulsory—it is OK not to be OK.

A validating and breathtaking next chapter of a Mother Goose favorite. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-682-6

Page Count: 45

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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