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VERNON IS ON HIS WAY

SMALL STORIES

Cleverly bringing the narrative full circle, Stead has crafted a caring community where sadness is mitigated by quiet...

The compassionate toad who stole readers’ hearts in A Home for Bird (2012) now appears in a long-form picture book with three chapters.

In “Waiting,” the amphibian sits atop a snail shell, a flower his only companion. An undecorated white background conveys the empty boredom surrounding this activity—a sentiment to which children will relate. Unexpectedly, the snail eventually emerges and carries Vernon into the next story. His forest world, executed in gouache, crayon, pastel, and charcoal, feels familiar. The pages are framed with loose green loops of vegetation and chalky blue strokes of sky. Stead has a gift for expressing the emotions and dialogue that accompany the uncertainties of childhood—those anxious, wanting-to-be-right-but-not-quite-knowing-the-rules moments. In “Fishing,” Skunk and Porcupine join their friend, and although Porcupine feels inadequate because he doesn’t know how to fish, in reality none of them do. At the climax, lit by a sunset, the trio invents their own version of the sport; listeners feel a combination of in-the-know pride—and relief. “Gardening” finds Vernon missing Bird: “But sometimes…my memories are not so easy to remember.” Working, resting, seeking out things Bird loved, and thoughtful friends are factors in his renewal.

Cleverly bringing the narrative full circle, Stead has crafted a caring community where sadness is mitigated by quiet kindnesses and an unhurried joy in nature—a fruitful model. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62672-655-0

Page Count: 69

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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THE MOST MAGNIFICENT THING

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle...

Making things is difficult work. Readers will recognize the stages of this young heroine’s experience as she struggles to realize her vision.

First comes anticipation. The artist/engineer is spotted jauntily pulling a wagonload of junkyard treasures. Accompanied by her trusty canine companion, she begins drawing plans and building an assemblage. The narration has a breezy tone: “[S]he makes things all the time. Easy-peasy!” The colorful caricatures and creations contrast with the digital black outlines on a white background that depict an urban neighborhood. Intermittent blue-gray panels break up the white expanses on selected pages showing sequential actions. When the first piece doesn’t turn out as desired, the protagonist tries again, hoping to achieve magnificence. A model of persistence, she tries many adjustments; the vocabulary alone offers constructive behaviors: she “tinkers,” “wrenches,” “fiddles,” “examines,” “stares” and “tweaks.” Such hard work, however, combines with disappointing results, eventually leading to frustration, anger and injury. Explosive emotions are followed by defeat, portrayed with a small font and scaled-down figures. When the dog, whose expressions have humorously mirrored his owner’s through each phase, retrieves his leash, the resulting stroll serves them well. A fresh perspective brings renewed enthusiasm and—spoiler alert—a most magnificent scooter sidecar for a loyal assistant.

Spires’ understanding of the fragility and power of the artistic impulse mixes with expert pacing and subtle characterization for maximum delight. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55453-704-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Feb. 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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