A mostly entertaining romp, but the ending underwhelms.

MY PENCIL AND ME

How to create a story…with some help from an anthropomorphic pencil.

In this metafictive picture book, the illustrated version of the actual author/illustrator is stymied—she’s got to start a new book but doesn’t have any ideas. Cleverly opening with three back-to-back double-page spreads that function like a camera zooming out, it shows the metafictive author sitting at her worktable, staring into space. She admits to her dog, Sweet Pea, that she has no ideas. The dog sagely replies, “Why didn’t you just ask your pencil for help?” And, voilà, pencil springs to assistance. With the pencil encouraging her, “You could start by drawing some recent adventures,” the two begin to create their story. That is, until the imaginary characters take over. The book’s design, black-outlined illustrations often within panels and with dialogue bubbles for characters’ speech, has the look of a simple graphic novel. There are cute sight gags, and the dialogue bubbles are lively and often funny. The insertion of narrative conflict (which the pencil says a story needs and Sweet Pea rejects, insisting they’re all friends) is slyly effective. The ending, though, is disappointing, failing to bring the story to a conclusion that is likely to satisfy readers, though the protagonist and Sweet Pea are happy with it. The protagonist has beige skin and brown hair; other human characters are illustrated with both lighter and darker skin. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 35% of actual size.)

A mostly entertaining romp, but the ending underwhelms. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59643-589-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Embedded in this heartwarming story of doing the right thing is a deft examination of the pressures of income inequality on...

A BIKE LIKE SERGIO'S

Continuing from their acclaimed Those Shoes (2007), Boelts and Jones entwine conversations on money, motives, and morality.

This second collaboration between author and illustrator is set within an urban multicultural streetscape, where brown-skinned protagonist Ruben wishes for a bike like his friend Sergio’s. He wishes, but Ruben knows too well the pressure his family feels to prioritize the essentials. While Sergio buys a pack of football cards from Sonny’s Grocery, Ruben must buy the bread his mom wants. A familiar lady drops what Ruben believes to be a $1 bill, but picking it up, to his shock, he discovers $100! Is this Ruben’s chance to get himself the bike of his dreams? In a fateful twist, Ruben loses track of the C-note and is sent into a panic. After finally finding it nestled deep in a backpack pocket, he comes to a sense of moral clarity: “I remember how it was for me when that money that was hers—then mine—was gone.” When he returns the bill to her, the lady offers Ruben her blessing, leaving him with double-dipped emotions, “happy and mixed up, full and empty.” Readers will be pleased that there’s no reward for Ruben’s choice of integrity beyond the priceless love and warmth of a family’s care and pride.

Embedded in this heartwarming story of doing the right thing is a deft examination of the pressures of income inequality on children. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6649-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Sweet—and savory.

THE KEEPER OF WILD WORDS

When a girl visits her grandmother, a writer and “grand friend,” she is seeking something special to share at show and tell on the first day of school.

Before Brook can explain, Mimi expresses concern that certain words describing the natural world will disappear if someone doesn’t care for and use them. (An author’s note explains the author’s motivation: She had read of the removal of 100 words about outdoor phenomena from the Oxford Junior Dictionary.) The duo sets out to search for and experience the 19 words on Mimi’s list, from “acorn” and “buttercup” to “violet” and “willow.” Kloepper’s soft illustrations feature green and brown earth tones that frame the white, matte pages; bursts of red, purple, and other spot colors enliven the scenes. Both Mimi and Brook are depicted as white. The expedition is described in vivid language, organized as free verse in single sentences or short paragraphs. Key words are printed in color in a larger display type and capital letters. Sensory details allow the protagonist to hear, see, smell, taste, and hold the wild: “ ‘Quick! Make a wish!’ said Mimi, / holding out a DANDELION, / fairy dust sitting on a stem. / ‘Blow on it and the seeds will fly. / Your tiny wishes in the air.’ ” It’s a day of wonder, with a touch of danger and a solution to Brook’s quest. The last page forms an envelope for readers’ own vocabulary collections.

Sweet—and savory. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7073-2

Page Count: 62

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more