A try for “sweet and refreshing” that lands squarely in “thoughtless and stale.” (Picture book. 3-7)

READ REVIEW

FLORENCE & LEON

Two strangers meet and bond over shared struggles with disability and a fondness for straws in Boulerice and Côté-Lacroix’s debut collaboration.

Florence loves to swim and gets rewarded with a tasty drink and swirly straw whenever she swims the fastest. Leon tries hard on his soccer team and comforts himself with juice and a giant straw whenever he loses. Some years later, as adults, Florence, a swim teacher with obstructed breathing, and Leon, an insurance salesman with tunnel vision who uses a white cane, meet by chance and get to know each other over lunch and drinks with straws. This relatively unfettered narrative is rendered stiff by missteps, possibly due to translation. Simple sentences feel stilted, as if they’ve been translated word for word rather than for ideas and meaning. Even good translation, however, cannot save poor craft. Eschewing any semblance of plot in favor of an extended meet-cute, this narrative misses full, nuanced representation of disabled characters by a mile—insinuating, for instance, that disclosure of disability is somehow compulsory between acquaintances. The one saving grace is the illustrations. Light and uncluttered pencil drawings with splashes of cheery red and yellow make excellent use of white space to connect scenes of spot art and, in contrast to the text, visually render elements of each of the white character’s experience with disability with confident accuracy as Florence and Leon explain each of their impairments using straws as a metaphor.

A try for “sweet and refreshing” that lands squarely in “thoughtless and stale.” (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1822-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love.

THE LOVE LETTER

A mysterious love letter brightens the lives of three forest animals.

Appealing mixed-media illustrations made of ink, gouache, brush marker, and colored pencil combine with a timely message that one kind act can start a chain reaction of kindness. When Hedgehog, Bunny, and Squirrel stumble in turn upon a formally composed love letter, each finds their life improved: Squirrel is less anxious, Bunny spreads goodwill through helpfulness, and Hedgehog is unusually cheerful. As the friends converge to try to discover who sent the letter, the real author appears in a (rather) convenient turn: a mouse who wrote an ode to the moon. Though disappointed that the letter was never meant for them, the friends reflect that the letter still made the world a happier place, making it a “wonderful mix-up.” Since there’s a lot of plot to follow, the book will best serve more-observant readers who are able to piece the narrative cleanly, but those older readers may also better appreciate the special little touches, such as the letter’s enticing, old-fashioned typewriter-style look, vignettes that capture small moments, or the subdued color palette that lends an elegant air. Drawn with minimalist, scribbly lines, the creatures achieve an invigorating balance between charming and spontaneous, with smudged lines that hint at layers of fur and simple, dotted facial expressions.

A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-274157-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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