A smart take on the strangeness of friendship.

READ REVIEW

SOMETIMES I FORGET YOU'RE A ROBOT

A little boy, endearingly rendered as a stick figure, wishes for a robot to land in his backyard.

Well, what kid wouldn’t, even if the kid didn’t have a head the shape and brightness of a full moon, a postage stamp for a body, sticks for limbs and a goofy smile a yard long? Every time he sees a jet in the sky or a shooting star, he hopes it is bringing him a robot, “going ‘beep, beep, beep’ as he takes me on an adventure.” One appears, of course, adding more cubic yardage to the boy’s smile. The robot is physically impressive—gargantuan in that robotic way, painted a red so saturated it feels wet—but short on the grand-adventure front. He can’t fly or swim, though he can go “beep,” and he can help the little moonhead build his treehouse. Together, they hammer and paint, and the robot is strong, holding up support beams as well as his new friend—wherein lies the point: You don’t have to be with a superhero to have a magical time. Brown sends the message easily, not hammering it home like one of the treehouse’s boards but allowing it to be organic to the story. And his artwork, with its chalky lines brokenly etched in the planes of big color, calls up that sense of surprise.

A smart take on the strangeness of friendship. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3825-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations.

I BELIEVE I CAN

Diversity is the face of this picture book designed to inspire confidence in children.

Fans of Byers and Bobo’s I Am Enough (2018) will enjoy this book that comes with a universal message of self-acceptance. A line of children practices ballet at the barre; refreshingly, two of the four are visibly (and adorably) pudgy. Another group tends a couple of raised beds; one of them wears hijab. Two more children coax a trepidatious friend down a steep slide. Further images, of children pretending to be pirates, dragons, mimes, playing superhero and soccer, and cooking, are equally endearing, but unfortunately they don’t add enough heft to set the book apart from other empowerment books for children. Though the illustrations shine, the text remains pedagogic and bland. Clichés abound: “When I believe in myself, there’s simply nothing I can’t do”; “Sometimes I am right, and sometimes I am wrong. / But even when I make mistakes, I learn from them to make me strong.” The inclusion of children with varying abilities, religions, genders, body types, and racial presentations creates an inviting tone that makes the book palatable. It’s hard to argue with the titular sentiment, but this is not the only book of its ilk on the shelf.

Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266713-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for...

OLIVER AND HIS EGG

Oliver, of first-day-of-school alligator fame, is back, imagining adventures and still struggling to find balance between introversion and extroversion.

“When Oliver found his egg…” on the playground, mint-green backgrounds signifying Oliver’s flight into fancy slowly grow larger until they take up entire spreads; Oliver’s creature, white and dinosaurlike with orange polka dots, grows larger with them. Their adventures include sharing treats, sailing the seas and going into outer space. A classmate’s yell brings him back to reality, where readers see him sitting on top of a rock. Even considering Schmid’s scribbly style, readers can almost see the wheels turning in his head as he ponders the girl and whether or not to give up his solitary play. “But when Oliver found his rock… // Oliver imagined many adventures // with all his friends!” This last is on a double gatefold that opens to show the children enjoying the creature’s slippery curves. A final wordless spread depicts all the children sitting on rocks, expressions gleeful, wondering, waiting, hopeful. The illustrations, done in pastel pencil and digital color, again make masterful use of white space and page turns, although this tale is not nearly as funny or tongue-in-cheek as Oliver and His Alligator (2013), nor is its message as clear and immediately accessible to children.

Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for all children but sadly isn’t. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7573-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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