A grand sun story, indeed.

SUN

A delightfully warm read about a grandfather and grandchild.

Following Snow (2015) and Rain (2017), this is the third in Usher’s series of picture books about these characters, and it more than rises to its predecessors’ achievements. The first-person text opens with the child excited to go on an adventure. Granddad suggests a picnic. They pack provisions, which are displayed in a marvelous, detailed spread sure to provoke readers to pore over it and note items that inform the story as it progresses. The bulk of the story then follows them as they search for the perfect picnic spot, traversing landscapes that emphasize the sun’s heat on this scorching hot day and that become increasingly fantastic in their range and scope. Usher’s expressive ink-and-watercolor illustrations are reminiscent of Quentin Blake’s style with a dash of John Burningham’s wit. The influence of both artists is apparent in the climactic, whimsical scenes when, after crossing a desert, grandfather and grandchild enjoy a picnic aboard an opulent pirate ship before heading back home. How much of this adventure is imagined and how much is real within the world of the book doesn’t matter at all in terms of the characters’ enjoyment of each other’s company, nor will it affect readers’ pleasure. Both grandfather and grandchild appear white; grandfather is bald, and grandchild has a mop of curly red hair.

A grand sun story, indeed. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9949-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Templar/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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