A cautionary tale for our automating times.

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ARNO AND THE MINIMACHINE

Two hundred years from now, young Arno gets bossed around by his personal, wearable MiniMachine automaton. Until he doesn’t.

Everything is regulated in Chwast’s futuristic tale. Arno wakes up in his bed in Happy Family Complex Number 88, just one of 5,183 families living in the bubble-domed, fully automated complex. His personal MiniMachine barks commands at him. “Get up.” “Put on your tan jumpsuit.” (All the boys wear tan jumpsuits; girls wear blue tops and red jumpers.) “Wait for the school jet,” which in Chwast’s stylized, highly entertaining cartoon artwork looks like a helicopter made out of a shoe box—hokey futurism. At school, the robot teacher takes the racially diverse class (Arno is white) on a field trip to the Zoo Garden, where one display is our current age, when “there were many kinds of animals and trees and flowers all over the world.” Arno is smitten by a bird (conveniently labeled) and sneaks it under his cap. Meanwhile, Arno’s MiniMachine continue to make demands: “Play baseball with your friends”—but Arno remembers the bird, which has hurt its wing, so Arno brings it home and cares for it. Arno ignores his MiniMachine until it blows a fuse and Arno is able to enjoy bird song instead. The social commentary is plain as day; whether kids are able to overlook the Jetsons-style doodads to see it is another matter.

A cautionary tale for our automating times. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60980-879-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Triangle Square Books for Young Readers

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Cool and stylish.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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ADA TWIST, SCIENTIST

Her intellectual curiosity is surpassed only by her passion for science. But what to do about her messy experiments?

Ada is speechless until she turns 3. But once she learns how to break out of her crib, there’s no stopping the kinky-haired, brown-skinned girl. “She tore through the house on a fact-finding spree.” When she does start speaking, her favorite words are “why,” “how,” and “when.” Her parents, a fashion-forward black couple who sport a variety of trendy outfits, are dumbfounded, and her older brother can only point at her in astonishment. She amazes her friends with her experiments. Ada examines all the clocks in the house, studies the solar system, and analyzes all the smells she encounters. Fortunately, her parents stop her from putting the cat in the dryer, sending her instead to the Thinking Chair. But while there, she covers the wall with formulae. What can her parents do? Instead of punishing her passion, they decide to try to understand it. “It’s all in the heart of a young scientist.” Though her plot is negligible—Ada’s parents arguably change more than she does—Beaty delightfully advocates for girls in science in her now-trademark crisply rhyming text. Roberts’ illustrations, in watercolor, pen, and ink, manage to be both smart and silly; the page compositions artfully evoke the tumult of Ada’s curiosity, filling white backgrounds with questions and clutter.

Cool and stylish. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2137-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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