Zany moods abound in Alegria and Kuvarzina’s picture book.
“What makes a face? Just a mouth and two eyes, a nose and a chin? / Yes, that’s all true, but did you know that your face can make faces too?” Except this is not true, of course, for any readers who do not have one or more of these features. The cover’s (racially) diverse array of human faces promptly gives way to illustrations featuring anthropomorphic animals, each corresponding to a different emotion (“OH NO! Look at the SAD llama pout!”) and instructions to mimic the expression. While most of the “faces” presented are straightforward (“serious”; “bashful”), a few are puzzlingly nonsensical (“Make a face like a MONKEY and swing your arms about”). Forced enthusiasm rings false (“That was so SUPER fun!”), while some humor fails to land: “HAHA hoHO / Look at the funny hippo dancing for you!” the text declares (just how is that hippo meant to be funny?). The mix of hand lettering and a more standard serif type (of varying fonts) makes it clear this is not a text for new readers, and while the text begs for a group read-aloud, the frenetic, bright illustrations and the difficult lettering make this a less-than-ideal choice. Finally, the small and stylized (think Raschka-esque) facial expressions fail to land the emotional punch the text requires.
Readers will make faces, but they’ll be faces of confusion and disappointment. (Picture book. 2-5)