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LEAF

Dieckmann beautifully weaves together some of today’s most difficult themes into a deceptively simple tale.

A lost polar bear strikes fear into the woodland animals until his extraordinary efforts to return home bring help, hope, and understanding.

A lone figure, balanced on a miniscule shard of ice, floats toward land under a moonlit sky. It covers itself in leaves and finds shelter in an old, abandoned cave, while the native animals watch and discuss, scared of the unknown. Every day they gossip, naming him Leaf, but none talk to the mysterious creature until Leaf attempts to fly home. The crows rescue him, and the animals promise to tell Leaf’s story, so no polar bear will “ever get lost again.” The illustrations, done in pencil, pen, wash, and paint with collage, are infused with a European folk-art aesthetic. Dieckmann plays with scale and proportion for dramatic and psychological effect. Grand spreads contrasting the mountains and sea offer a wide, dreamlike sensibility, whereas the portrait of Leaf in his cave brings forth the bear’s emotional isolation. Skilled linework provides depth and detailed information; and the artist’s appealing patterning acts almost like hieroglyphs, with the green plants and vibrant flowers indicating a foreign world to the bear, compared to the blue environment of his home. A timely story, one that yields multiple interpretations and meanings, from the “othering” of unfamiliar populations and those seeking refuge from a changing world to the impacts of climate change.

Dieckmann beautifully weaves together some of today’s most difficult themes into a deceptively simple tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-911171-31-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flying Eye Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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ADDIE ANT GOES ON AN ADVENTURE

Young readers will be “antsy” to join the hero on her satisfying escapade.

An ant explores her world.

Addie Ant’s ready for adventure. Despite some trepidation about leaving the Tomato Bed, where she lives with her aunt, she plucks up her courage and ventures forth across the garden to the far side of the shed. On her journey, she meets her pal Lewis Ladybug, who greets her warmly, points the way, and offers sage advice. When Addie arrives at her destination, she’s welcomed by lovely Beatrix Butterfly and enjoys an “ant-tastic” helping of watermelon. Beatrix also provides Addie with take-home treats and a map for the “Cricket Express,” which will take her straight home. Arriving at the terminal, Addie’s delighted to meet another friend, Cleo Cricket, whose carriage service returns Addie home in “two hops.” After eating a warm tomato soup dinner, Addie falls asleep and dreams of future exploits. Adorable though not terribly original, this story brims with sensuous pleasures, both textual and visual. Kids who declare that they dislike fruits or veggies may find their mouths watering at the mentions and sights of luscious tomatoes, peas, beans, watermelons, berries, and other foodstuffs; insect-averse readers may likewise think differently after encountering these convivial, wide-eyed characters. And those flowers and herbs everywhere! The highlights are the colors that burst from the pages. Addie’s an endearing, empowering character who reassures children they’ll be able to take those first independent steps successfully.

Young readers will be “antsy” to join the hero on her satisfying escapade. (author’s note about ants) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 9, 2024

ISBN: 9781797228914

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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