An ordinary story is given a spark of life by the inclusion of an empathetic little brother with autism.

BENJI, THE BAD DAY, AND ME

Who wins in a competition for attention with a sibling with autism? It’s not a “who,” it’s a “what”: brotherly love.

It seems the universe is conspiring against Sammy. He is fed up with trouble at school, a pizza shortage, a missed bus stop, and rain, and he gets home only to be ignored because Benji is having a bad day and has retreated to his box. Sammy reminisces about better times and blueberry smoothies, but when he starts crying over spilled milk, Benji leaves his cardboard sanctuary to snuggle his brother in a blue-blanket burrito, demonstrating that love is a never-fail remedy for bad days. Vibrant, full-color illustrations in acrylic and colored pencil, punctuated by his monochromatic memories, accompany the first-person narrative. On face-to-face wordless pages, Min lets readers see a woeful Sammy through the narrow window in Benji’s box, ensuring Benji’s agency. Giving order and structure to what can be an unpredictable world, the wooden inhabitants of Benji’s block city march across the title page, scatter about the story, and finally line up in columns and rows on the back of the book jacket. Pla selects a common theme, the power of familial love to overcome adversity, and deftly moves the challenges of autism to a supporting detail rather than a distracting focus in this simple picture book. That Min depicts this family as people of color further broadens this story’s inclusive reach.

An ordinary story is given a spark of life by the inclusion of an empathetic little brother with autism. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62014-345-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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WE ARE IN A BOOK!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Stalwart friends Piggie and Gerald the elephant push the metafictive envelope in a big way when they realize that "someone is looking at us." Is it a monster? worries Gerald. "No," replies the squinting Piggie. "It is... / a reader! / A reader is reading us!" How? wonders Gerald. Piggie drapes herself on a word bubble to demonstrate: "We are in a book!" "THAT IS SO COOL!" Joy leads to a little bit of clever practical joking—Piggie figures out how to make the readers say "banana" out loud, and hilarity ensues—which gives way to existential angst: "The book ends?!" exclaims an appalled Gerald. Emergent readers just beginning to grapple one-on-one with the rules of the printed codex will find the friends' antics both funny and provocative: Just who is in control here, anyway? As always, Willems displays his customary control of both body language and pacing even as he challenges his readers to engage with his characters and the physicality of their book . The friends' solution to the book's imminent end? "Hello. Will you please read us again?" You bet. (Early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4231-3308-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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