This well-intended fable founders amid misrepresentation of basic desert botany.

CACTUS AND FLOWER

A BOOK ABOUT LIFE CYCLES

A saguaro cactus and its own flower become good friends and immerse themselves in the exuberance of life.

They share these “butterfly days” by admiring the many-colored desert sky, the bright stars at night, and the various wild birds and animals. Life is great for the two “buds” until the terrible day a petal is lost to the wind—soon to be followed by all. Cactus is inconsolable—not even a confluence of “all the butterflies in the world” can cheer him. Finally, memories of his friend start evoking joy instead of pain. When a new flower blooms, Cactus is ready to embrace life’s mysteries and inevitabilities. Williamson’s whimsical portrayal of Sonoran desert animals is the high point of this rather flat paean to the cycle of life. Disappointingly, the author/illustrator presents myriad inaccuracies that elicit first puzzlement and then eye rolls among readers familiar with the region. True saguaro flower clusters are ivory and yellow; the solitary pink flower looks like that of the hedgehog cactus—a different species altogether. Readers may also note that befriending the flower is akin to befriending one’s elbow—it is a part of the cactus. It does not, as indicated in the story, live side by side with the saguaro. Despite the subtitle, neither the life cycle of the saguaro nor its blossom’s is discussed in any way, shape, or form.

This well-intended fable founders amid misrepresentation of basic desert botany. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4337-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character

PEDRO, FIRST-GRADE HERO

From the Pedro series , Vol. 1

The creators of the Katie Woo series turn their focus to a peripheral character, first-grader Pedro—Katie’s friend and schoolmate.

Four short chapters—“Pedro Goes Buggy,” “Pedro’s Big Goal,” “Pedro’s Mystery Club,” and “Pedro For President”—highlight a Latino main character surrounded by a superbly diverse cast. At times unsure of himself, Pedro is extremely likable, for he wants to do his best and is a fair friend. He consistently comes out on top, even when his younger brother releases all the bugs he’s captured for a class assignment or when self-assured bully Roddy tries to unite opposition to Pedro’s female opponent (Katie Woo) in the race for first-grade class president. Using a third-person, past-tense narrative voice, Manushkin expands her repertoire by adding a hero comparable to EllRay Jakes. What is refreshing about the book is that for the most part, aside from Roddy’s gender-based bullying, the book overcomes boy-girl stereotypes: girls and boys play soccer, boys and girls run for president, girls and boys hunt for bugs, all setting a progressive standard for chapter books. With mixed-media illustrations featuring colorful bugs, soccer action, a mystery hunt, and a presidential campaign, Lyon’s attention to detail in color and facial expressions complements the story nicely.

This earnest Latino first-grader who overcomes obstacles and solves mysteries is a winning character . (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5158-0112-2

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Picture Window Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Accessible, reassuring and hopeful.

THE INVISIBLE BOY

This endearing picture book about a timid boy who longs to belong has an agenda but delivers its message with great sensitivity.

Brian wants to join in but is overlooked, even ostracized, by his classmates. Readers first see him alone on the front endpapers, drawing in chalk on the ground. The school scenarios are uncomfortably familiar: High-maintenance children get the teacher’s attention; team captains choose kickball players by popularity and athletic ability; chatter about birthday parties indicates they are not inclusive events. Tender illustrations rendered in glowing hues capture Brian’s isolation deftly; compared to the others and his surroundings, he appears in black and white. What saves Brian is his creativity. As he draws, Brian imagines amazing stories, including a poignant one about a superhero with the power to make friends. When a new boy takes some ribbing, it is Brian who leaves an illustrated note to make him feel better. The boy does not forget this gesture. It only takes one person noticing Brian for the others to see his talents have value; that he has something to contribute. Brian’s colors pop. In the closing endpapers, Brian’s classmates are spread around him on the ground, “wearing” his chalk-drawn wings and capes. Use this to start a discussion: The author includes suggested questions and recommended reading lists for adults and children.

Accessible, reassuring and hopeful. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-582-46450-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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