THE BUILDING BOY

A little white boy completes Grandma’s dream house with a hammer and a bit of magic.

Grandma used to be an architect. She built “the tallest skyscrapers, the most beautiful palaces,” and many other buildings. Every night the little boy sits in Grandma’s lap in Grandma’s favorite chair in the study, in front of a roaring fire, and looks at photographs from Grandma’s past. She plans to build a beautiful house for the two of them that will be on a hill on the horizon beyond the sea. But time is marching on; Grandma becomes too old to build a house, to make dinner, to climb the stairs. One day, the boy comes home to find her gone, and now the house is “just rooms.” But he has an idea. He works for months building, through wind and snow and rain. Finally, he has it: a gigantic…grandmother! (There’s a little chimney sprouting from her metallic blue hair.) She takes him by the hand and leaps into the air. They fly over gigantic fields, walk on the ocean, and scale tall skyscrapers. Finally, he sees it. On a hill above the city and across the sea sits the house that Grandma has started for him. It becomes The Building Boy’s School for Young Architects. Montgomery’s imaginative tale of grief and legacy is refreshingly untethered by logic. Litchfield’s illustrations amplify his themes with originality and a warm palette.

Sad and sweet. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-571-31409-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A cute, Halloween-y take on the old dare-to-be-you moral.

HARDLY HAUNTED

What could be worse for a house than to be haunted? Unless….

“There was a house on a hill, and that house was worried.” Overgrown with vines and frequented by a curious black cat, the abandoned abode fears that she will remain unoccupied because of her eerie countenance. Supplying the house with rounded, third-story windows and exterior molding that shift to express emotions, Sima takes readers through a tour of the house’s ominous interior. At first, the enchanted homestead tries to suppress her creaky walls, squeaky stairs, and rattling pipes. Despite all efforts to keep “VERY still. And VERY quiet. And VERY calm,” the house comes to find that being a rather creepy residence might actually be fun. The realization dawns on the decrepit dwelling with both relief and joy: “She liked being noisy. Maybe she liked being haunted.” Once the house embraces herself for who she is, the plot moves in a pleasant yet predictable direction: A cheerful family of ghosts loves the house in all her noisy glory and decides to move in. Sima’s lighthearted, cartoony style and cozy palette disarm the book of any frightening elements. The gentle, upbeat vibe makes it a fair choice to remind kids that their differences from others are the key to their belonging. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A cute, Halloween-y take on the old dare-to-be-you moral. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-4170-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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