An appealing-enough lesson about working together, despite some narrative shortcomings.

THE THREE MONKS

In this parable imported from China, three monks quarrel over everything, leading to worse results for everyone.

Old Monk, Young Monk, and Mini Monk, hairless figures with pale skin and textured collage bodies, do nothing but argue. One day, they decide to leave their temple in hopes that a change of scenery will help. It doesn’t. Out in the world, they still quarrel over everything, from who walks ahead to who gets to hold their one umbrella in the rain. Each argument is resolved in a way that is worse for everyone: All three fall into a river when they walk side by side over a narrow bridge, and everyone gets soaked when they close the umbrella to be fair. Time after time, rather than any one of them getting an advantage, they all suffer. Finally, Mini Monk has an idea: They can each buy some food and share. This works well until they encounter a roast duck restaurant—but they cannot eat meat. Upon their arrival home, they conclude that the world is nothing but trouble. They also agree to share the work and never fight again. While this conclusion is commendable and entirely expected for the genre, it is hard to follow the logic—why the sudden change of heart? What is the importance of the duck? Scrawly illustrations combining different media reinforce the rustic atmosphere with charm.

An appealing-enough lesson about working together, despite some narrative shortcomings. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4788-6804-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Reycraft Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Sweet, good-hearted fun.

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THE SOUR GRAPE

From the Food Group series

A recovering curmudgeon narrates life lessons in the latest entry in the punny Food Group series.

Grape wasn’t always sour, as they explain in this origin story. Grape’s arc starts with an idyllic childhood within “a close-knit bunch” in a community of “about three thousand.” The sweet-to-sour switch begins when Grape plans an elaborate birthday party to which no one shows up. Going from “sweet” to “bitter,” “snappy,” and, finally, “sour,” Grape “scowled so much that my face got all squishy.” Minor grudges become major. An aha moment occurs when a run of bad luck makes Grape three hours late for a meetup with best friend Lenny, who’s just as acidic as Grape. After the irate lemon storms off, Grape recognizes their own behavior in Lenny. Alone, Grape begins to enjoy the charms of a lovely evening. Once home, the fruit browses through a box of memorabilia, discovering that the old birthday party invitation provided the wrong date! “I realized nobody’s perfect. Not even me.” Remaining pages reverse the downturn as Grape observes that minor setbacks are easily weathered when the emphasis is on talking, listening, and working things out. Oswald’s signature illustrations depict Grape and company with big eyes and tiny limbs. The best sight gag occurs early: Grape’s grandparents are depicted as elegant raisins. The lessons are as valuable as in previous outings, and kids won’t mind the slight preachiness. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sweet, good-hearted fun. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-304541-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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