A poignant, visually rich depiction of a child awaiting the return of a parent.

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A young boy expresses his feelings about his mother’s extended trip to another country.

This tender picture book by a husband-and-wife team begins as a Bolivian boy named Milko confides that he “misses Mama like leaves long for the rain this dry season.” Without her, he observes over the next few pages, home is unsettled: Milko’s younger sister cries inconsolably; Papa’s porridge boils over on the stove; and unlike Mama, Papa “is terrible at haggling with the fishmongers” in the market. Mama, it turns out, left Bolivia for Ethiopia at the beginning of the rainy season for a yearlong trip. (The reasons for her journey and its duration are not explained.) Milko has marked off 365 days since she left. Why hasn’t she returned? Not to worry. Mama and her “laughter as deep as the forest” bring the Narhs’ story to a sweet, soulful conclusion—although one that may require parents to explain the meaning of a leap year. (Two books among many that offer children more prosaic ways to cope with absent parents are The Invisible String by Patrice Karst, 2000; and Lily Hates Goodbyes by Jerilyn Marler, 2012.) Artist Knatko’s beautiful watercolor illustrations complement the text with evocative imagery and lush swaths of colors and patterns. Milko is portrayed with light brown skin and a riot of blondish curls.

A poignant, visually rich depiction of a child awaiting the return of a parent.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-73478-972-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chasing A Spider Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2022


From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019


A joyful celebration.

Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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