A sad, challenging, and ultimately hopeful real-life story.

READ REVIEW

FROM FAR AWAY

Seven-year-old Saoussan writes a letter to her reading buddy explaining how she left her war-torn country and what life in a new country has been like.

Originally published in 1995 and based on Askar’s experiences as a child in a Toronto school, this now appears with new illustrations and revised text. Sadly, this story has not lost any of its relevance or immediacy. As Saoussan tells her story, readers learn she comes from far away. Though she never says where from, it is understood from her mother’s dress that it is a Muslim country. When war starts her parents decide to leave; in a note at the end of the book readers learn her new home is in Canada. The illustrations depict a very multiethnic school as well as a child in a wheelchair. Life in her new country is not easy. She doesn’t speak English and cannot understand or communicate with her teacher or her classmates. Even something as basic as asking to go to the bathroom—here called a washroom—becomes a trial. Traditional celebrations can also be traumatic: when Saoussan sees a Halloween paper skeleton, memories of war flood back and make her scream. The children’s faces are very expressive and help to further convey the feelings felt on all sides. The simple sentence structure and familiar situations make it easily accessible to young children. A note from a now-grown Askar concludes the book.

A sad, challenging, and ultimately hopeful real-life story. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-55451-940-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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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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