A delightful ode to the curiosity of childhood.

A NEIGHBORHOOD WALK, A MUSICAL JOURNEY

Penelope and her mother live in the city, where there are sounds on every corner, but what will become of Penelope now that she’s heard a new, almost magical sound?

Penelope, a young girl with light-brown skin and hair in a single Afro puff, joins her mother on a walk to the farmers market. Along the way, they stop to enjoy a saxophonist on the street corner, a drummer in the subway, a guitarist in the park, and a cellist playing from inside a building. When they arrive at the farmers market, Penelope becomes fascinated by pleasant music riding the air that she can’t identify. She follows the sounds until she finds a violinist; enraptured, she declares, “I’m going to make that music too.” Penelope’s curiosity about music and the world around her rings true. The illustrations offer a pleasant, cartoonlike feel and plenty of details to bring character to this bustling, diverse city. Hilariously, three rats are drawn on the subway tracks, giving young readers an “I spy” opportunity and adults a chuckle. This will be an excellent book for picture walks with very young children, who will be drawn to the bright colors and busy pages. The text, alas, falters a bit, incorporating clunky onomatopoeia that doesn’t always provide a good imitation of the instruments they describe—does a bow drawn across a cello’s strings really sound like “pluck-pluck-pluck”?

A delightful ode to the curiosity of childhood. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8075-3670-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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THIS BOOK IS GRAY

A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Between its autumn and field-trip themes and the fact that not many books start countdowns from 20, this may find its way to...

PUMPKIN COUNTDOWN

A class visits the pumpkin patch, giving readers a chance to count down from 20.

At the farm, Farmer Mixenmatch gives them the tour, which includes a petting zoo, an educational area, a corn maze and a tractor ride to the pumpkin patch. Holub’s text cleverly though not always successfully rhymes each child’s name within the line: “ ‘Eighteen kids get on our bus,’ says Russ. / ‘But someone’s late,’ says Kate. / ‘Wait for me!’ calls Kiri.” Pumpkins at the tops of pages contain the numerals that match the text, allowing readers to pair them with the orange-colored, spelled-out numbers. Some of the objects proffered to count are a bit of a stretch—“Guess sixteen things we’ll see,” count 14 cars that arrived at the farm before the bus—but Smith’s artwork keeps things easy to count, except for a challenging page that asks readers to search for 17 orange items (answers are at the bottom, upside down). Strangely, Holub includes one page with nothing to count—a sign marks “15 Pumpkin Street.” Charming, multicultural round-faced characters and lots of detail encourage readers to go back through the book scouring pages for the 16 things the kids guessed they might see. Endpapers featuring a smattering of pumpkin facts round out the text.

Between its autumn and field-trip themes and the fact that not many books start countdowns from 20, this may find its way to many library shelves. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8075-6660-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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