Stylish the art may be, but it’s wasted on this ham-fisted moral tale.

SWEET PENNY AND THE LION

Being swallowed by a lion works watershed changes on young Penny’s character.

Plainly cast as a riff on Maurice Sendak’s Pierre (1962) but lacking its progenitor’s internal logic (not to mention its narrative lilt), the episode introduces Penny as a tidy, quiet child who draws “boring…but nice” pictures of flowers, lets other kids steal her lunch, and always does as she’s told. One day a lion appears on the playground and gulps her down. Shortly thereafter she punches her way out and declares that she will not let herself be eaten again—a resolution that somehow translates into sweeping behavioral changes: “So Penny now draws whatever she wants, maybe dragons or a monster named Ryan… // And at lunchtime she goes to the front of the line, riding on the back of a lion.” In the large-format cartoon illustrations Fairgray surrounds his self-possessed, purple-haired white protagonist with wildly caricatured schoolmates and teachers displaying a broad range of clothes, body types, and variations in skin tone. The smiling lion looks more like a boulevardier than a predator, leaning on the playground fence and sporting a carefully coiffured mane and jagged rows of oddly tiny teeth. “So let this be a lesson, children, being good and nice is fine, / but don’t be afraid to break rules or test limits from time to time.” Uh, right.

Stylish the art may be, but it’s wasted on this ham-fisted moral tale. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5107-3484-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably...

LOST AND FOUND

A lad finds a penguin on his doorstep and resolutely sets out to return it in this briefly told import. 

Eventually, he ends up rowing it all the way back to Antarctica, braving waves and storms, filling in the time by telling it stories. But then, feeling lonely after he drops his silent charge off, he belatedly realizes that it was probably lonely too, and turns back to find it. Seeing Jeffers’s small, distant figures in wide, simply brushed land- and sea-scapes, young viewers will probably cotton to the penguin’s feelings before the boy himself does—but all’s well that ends well, and the reunited companions are last seen adrift together in the wide blue sea. 

Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably with this—slightly—less offbeat friendship tale. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-24503-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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