In this picture-book debut, Serefina is seven years old and comes, her grandmother says, “from a long line of people who are full of imagination.” Serefina envisions all her ancestors dangling from a clothesline as her grandmother reminds her that an imagination is a “blessing, as long as you don’t let it run away with you.” When the grandmother bestows a secret upon Serefina—that her brother, Buster, is to have a surprise birthday party—it takes root, sprouts, and quickly grows so large that the child has difficulty not blurting it out. After she does just that, Serefina’s story to her grandmother about why telling the secret became a life-and-death whopper (the “circumstances” of the title), the older woman is no less loving, apparently resigned to the fact that a child who is “destined for greatness” may need a little poetic license along the way. Priceman’s humorous scenes embellish and extend the wordplay in the text, offering literal visual translations of words and the exaggerated effects of Serefina’s imagination on daily events. Storytelling and the power of words, however, while present as themes, never overwhelm the delicately wrapped core of this piece: the tolerance and unconditional affection between the two main characters. (Picture book. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-688-15942-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1999

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One of a four-book series designed to help the very young prepare for new siblings, this title presents a toddler-and-mother pair (the latter heavily pregnant) as they read about new babies, sort hand-me-downs, buy new toys, visit the obstetrician and the sonographer, speculate and wait. Throughout, the child asks questions and makes exclamations with complete enthusiasm: “How big is the baby? What does it eat? I felt it move! Is it a boy or girl?” Fuller’s jolly pictures present a biracial family that thoroughly enjoys every moment together. It’s a bit oversimplified, but no one can complain about the positive message it conveys, appropriately, to its baby and toddler audience. The other titles in the New Baby series are My New Baby (ISBN: 978-1-84643-276-7), Look at Me! (ISBN: 978-1-84643-278-1) and You and Me (ISBN: 978-1-84643-277-4). (Board book. 18 mos.-3)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-84643-275-0

Page Count: 12

Publisher: Child's Play

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2010

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A girl and her sister start off rather glumly in the back seat of the car, leaving all their friends behind, because they are off to a family party. When they arrive, they are kissed by Aunt Joan—the worst—and then there is more kissing and a bunch of cousins just hanging around. But the kids start sharing war stories (hair cuts, lost teeth, split lips) and playing shark on the lawn; there are hideouts under Uncle John’s chair and potato-chip thievery; and then there is all that food beloved of family gatherings, for it is Gran’s birthday. At the end, of course, no one wants to go home. In sprightly rhyme, Reid captures the range of experience, from initial wariness to high hilarity, present at parties full of relatives. Her illustrations, done in painted Plasticine on board, have a wonderful texture, making a Hawaiian shirt, three-bean salad, and Mary Jane shoes pop out of the page. A treat. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-590-97801-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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