Questions about what we see and what we don’t see, what we know and what we don’t know ripple through this beguiling book...

A KISS FOR AKARAKA

Daddy and little Lula rake autumn leaves alongside Akaraka, the girl’s imaginary friend.

Akaraka takes shape in the clouds, wind, leaves, and breeze—an evanescent silhouette that Daddy can’t see, though he playfully calls to her. Lula watches Akaraka out of the corner of her eye while giggling and teasing, “Daddy, you silly….” Readers  will feel exhilarated, enclosed in Lula’s private secret. They too make out her form in the autumnal natural world and later as a diaphanous shadow on bedroom wallpaper. Lithe, light-handed pen-and-ink–and-watercolor artwork appears both delicate and assured, making landscapes, expressions, and postures (even the folds of a sweatshirt) appear at once exact and exquisite. While interior domestic scenes seem cozily, concretely familiar with helpings of chocolate pudding (an extra for Akaraka), the world outdoors feels wildly atmospheric, with soaring skies and spinning leaves. Spacious double-page spreads evoke the luxuriant pull of the imagination, where the charm of an imaginary friend can sweep you away, across borders. Lula and her parents have pale skin and straight, black hair; Jackson’s back-flap biography explains that the word Akaraka comes from the Igbo-speaking people of southwestern Nigeria and was adopted by his then-3-year-old granddaughter, who loved the sound.

Questions about what we see and what we don’t see, what we know and what we don’t know ripple through this beguiling book like a playful October wind. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-265196-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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A hilarious autumnal comedy of errors.

THE LEAF THIEF

A confused squirrel overreacts to the falling autumn leaves.

Relaxing on a tree branch, Squirrel admires the red, gold, and orange leaves. Suddenly Squirrel screams, “One of my leaves is…MISSING!” Searching for the leaf, Squirrel tells Bird, “Someone stole my leaf!” Spying Mouse sailing in a leaf boat, Squirrel asks if Mouse stole the leaf. Mouse calmly replies in the negative. Bird reminds Squirrel it’s “perfectly normal to lose a leaf or two at this time of year.” Next morning Squirrel panics again, shrieking, “MORE LEAVES HAVE BEEN STOLEN!” Noticing Woodpecker arranging colorful leaves, Squirrel queries, “Are those my leaves?” Woodpecker tells Squirrel, “No.” Again, Bird assures Squirrel that no one’s taking the leaves and that the same thing happened last year, then encourages Squirrel to relax. Too wired to relax despite some yoga and a bath, the next day Squirrel cries “DISASTER” at the sight of bare branches. Frantic now, Squirrel becomes suspicious upon discovering Bird decorating with multicolored leaves. Is Bird the culprit? In response, Bird shows Squirrel the real Leaf Thief: the wind. Squirrel’s wildly dramatic, misguided, and hyperpossessive reaction to a routine seasonal event becomes a rib-tickling farce through clever use of varying type sizes and weights emphasizing his absurd verbal pronouncements as well as exaggerated, comic facial expressions and body language. Bold colors, arresting perspectives, and intense close-ups enhance Squirrel’s histrionics. Endnotes explain the science behind the phenomenon.

A hilarious autumnal comedy of errors. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-7282-3520-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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