A gentle, touching story of loss and resilience and of the beneficial role imagination plays, with visually intelligent and...

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PAULA KNOWS WHAT TO DO

When a young girl’s father is too sad to get out of bed, she paints him a picture and the two go on an imaginary adventure together.

It’s Saturday morning, and Paula is waiting for her father to make hot chocolate and coffee, but she doesn’t hear him moving around the house. When she discovers he’s still in bed, she asks if he’s still sad about Mommy and then says, “I miss her too.” Paula decides that, to get cheered up, her father needs to go sailing, and so she paints a picture of a sailboat and coaxes him into an imaginary adventure. Author/illustrator Dufft’s watercolor illustrations skillfully combine an assured, realistic watercolor style to portray Paula and her father, with a rudimentary childlike stroke to visually highlight the imaginative adventure. Light and shadow are used to great effect to convey mood—the father’s bedroom is portrayed as a dim room of grayed color that brightens by story’s end. While the final page turn is just so-so (Paula’s self-confidence has been well-established throughout, so its resurrection comes as no surprise), ending on an uplifted note both visually and textually reassures readers that both Paula and her father will come through this trying time just fine. Both Paula and her father present white.

A gentle, touching story of loss and resilience and of the beneficial role imagination plays, with visually intelligent and well-executed illustrations. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77278-068-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Pajama Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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THE POUT-POUT FISH

The pout-pout fish, painted a suitable blue, is so named for his perpetual gloom: “I’m a pout-pout fish / With a pout-pout face, / So I spread the dreary-wearies / All over the place.” When a jellyfish complains about his “daily scaly scowl,” the glum fish agrees, but says his mood isn’t up to him. A squid, dubbing the fish “a kaleidoscope of mope,” receives the same defeatist answer, as do other sea creatures. Up to this point, the story is refreshing in that readers will no doubt recognize the pout-pout fish in their own lives, and in many cases, there’s just no cheering these people up. But the plot takes a rather unpalatable turn when a shimmery girl fish kisses the gloomster right on his pouty mouth. With that kiss, he transforms into the “kiss-kiss fish” and swims around “spreading cheery-cheeries all over the place,” meaning that he starts to smooch every creature in sight. (Don’t try this at school, kids, you’ll get suspended!) Still, there’s plenty of charm here, both in the playful language (“hulky-bulky sulking!”) and in the winning artwork—Hanna’s cartoonish undersea world swims with hilarious bug-eyed creatures that ooze personality. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 21, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-374-36096-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2008

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