SUN

A grand sun story, indeed.

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 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

CARPENTER'S HELPER

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

THERE'S A ROCK CONCERT IN MY BEDROOM

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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