Unmistakably message-driven (“YOU know what’s good for them”) yet silly and light.

THE MANIC PANIC

In this unexpected take on screen addiction, an Indian import, an unnamed girl convinces her parents that they, too, can have fun away from their pods and pads.

On “most days,” Daddy can be found referring to recipes on his wireless device, and Mommy, on the couch, snacking and tapping on her laptop. But, when the Wi-Fi goes down, Mommy “howls” and Daddy “bellows.” They “whine” and “whimper.” “Mommy! Daddy! BEHAVE! It is NOT the end of the world,” says the ingenious protagonist, and she takes her parents out into the “big wide world out there”: They climb trees, play soccer, and buy hot chai from the street vendor. While the parents display a reluctance stereotypical to screen-focused children, the young protagonist mirrors parental responses, with “knit…brows” and firmness. Young readers will likely get the joke. When the family returns home, the Wi-Fi is still down, but now they “have other things to think about. Like the clouds and the breeze and the trees.” The identity of the second-person narrator is revealed at the end, which is yet another humorous turnabout. Ananth’s muted, posterlike illustrations are not India-specific (save, perhaps, for the tea stall), and they feature a multigenerational, middle-class brown family that might be found anywhere in the diaspora.

Unmistakably message-driven (“YOU know what’s good for them”) yet silly and light. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-939547-43-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creston

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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A quiet, thought-provoking story of environmental change and the power humans have to slow it.

THE OLD BOAT

A multigenerational tale of a boat’s life with a Black family, written by two brothers who loved similar boats.

In the opening spread, a smiling, brown-skinned adult dangles a line from the back of a green-and-white boat while a boy peers eagerly over the side at the sea life. The text never describes years passing, but each page turn reveals the boy’s aging, more urban development on the shore, increasing water pollution, marine-life changes (sea jellies abound on one page), and shifting water levels. Eventually, the boy, now a teenager, steers the boat, and as an adult, he fishes alone but must go farther and farther out to sea to make his catch. One day, the man loses his way, capsizes in a storm, and washes up on a small bay island, with the overturned, sunken boat just offshore. Now a “new sailor” cleans up the land and water with others’ help. The physical similarities between the shipwrecked sailor and the “new sailor” suggest that this is not a new person but one whose near-death experience has led to an epiphany that changes his relationship to water. As the decaying boat becomes a new marine habitat, the sailor teaches the next generation (a child with hair in two Afro puffs) to fish. Focusing primarily on the sea, the book’s earth-toned illustrations, created with hundreds of stamps, carry the compelling plot.

A quiet, thought-provoking story of environmental change and the power humans have to slow it. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-00517-9

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Norton Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.

ROBOBABY

Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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