Original in its visual and linguistic presentation of behavioral problems, this important call for understanding should sit...


The Snurtch sits in Ruthie’s seat at school, all furry, spiky, goofy, and googly-eyed, waiting—just as she expected.

It hovers, pokes, and pants, orange hair and jagged mouth going every which way, getting the fair-skinned girl all mixed up in its misdeeds and bad behavior. It is “scribbly and scrunchy”; it’s “grabby and burpy and rude.” The other kids recoil. Children whose cheeks flush with quick anger and whose school days are riddled with frustration and regret will empathize deeply with Ruthie’s helplessness at the hands of her Snurtch. And, looking at the Snurtch, which appears as a childlike drawing superimposed over polished, detailed illustrations of Ruthie, her school, and classmates, they might quickly see that Ruthie, in fact, misbehaves, since the Snurtch makes it all but impossible not to. While the Snurtch doesn't appear scary (it looks kind of silly), its perfect embodiment of overwhelming (and instantly regrettable) impulses borders on heart-wrenching. Every student harbors and battles a Snurtch, as readers see with relief on the final pages of this clever, pertinent book, but some have bigger, more monstrous ones than others. Ruthie's dark brow, set mouth, and hooded eyes make clear the weighty burden she carries around like a backpack.

Original in its visual and linguistic presentation of behavioral problems, this important call for understanding should sit on library, classroom, and bedrooms shelves—the high ones, just above a Snurtch's reach . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 30, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5656-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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


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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Safe to creep on by.


Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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