This Belgian import offers a provocative look at the trajectory between snap judgments and hateful behavior—when both are...

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MEENA

Christa, Klaas and Thomas have concluded that their portly, grey-haired neighbor is a witch.

They yell nasty comments and draw an arrow pointing toward her door with that very label so others are forewarned. Encountering a regular visitor, they ask the girl: “Did the witch put a spell on you so that now you have to visit her all the time?” Van Mol’s language and characterizations ring true. Despite the child’s explanation that Meena is her grandma, the friends watch in horror as the woman empties a bucket of red liquid into the gutter. A key dangles from her stained apron; tiny legs poke out of her pocket. When accentuating a character or object, Wijffels employs painted and cut paper, cheerful buttons, thread and other media in layered, compositions; the supporting roles are rendered in single-color outlines. The white backgrounds offer a pleasing foil for the emotionally-charged images: the bubbling red liquid (later revealed to be cherry-pie filling), the looming, forest-green shadow of apprehension as Thomas prepares to deliver the climactic message. The endpapers depicting a sidewalk portrait of “Grandma Meena” (and her pie) follow an episode in which the children face and overcome their fear, although, realistically, not all at once.

This Belgian import offers a provocative look at the trajectory between snap judgments and hateful behavior—when both are fueled by fear. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5394-3

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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Readers will agree: All differences should be hugged, er, embraced.

BIRD HUGS

Watch out, Hug Machine (Scott Campbell, 2014), there’s another long-limbed lover of squeezes in the mix.

Bernard, a tiny, lavender bird, dejectedly sits atop a high branch. His wings droop all the way to the ground. Heaving a sigh, his disappointment is palpable. With insufferably long wings, he has never been able to fly. All of his friends easily took to the skies, leaving him behind. There is nothing left to do but sit in his tree and feel sorry for himself. Adamson amusingly shows readers the passage of time with a sequence of vignettes of Bernard sitting in the rain, the dark, and amid a cloud of paper wasps—never moving from his branch. Then one day he hears a sob and finds a tearful orangutan. Without even thinking, Bernard wraps his long wings around the great ape. The orangutan is comforted! Bernard has finally found the best use of his wings. In gentle watercolor and pencil sketches, Adamson slips in many moments of humor. Animals come from all over to tell Bernard their troubles (a lion muses that it is “lonely at the top of the food chain” while a bat worries about missing out on fun during the day). Three vertical spreads that necessitate a 90-degree rotation add to the fun.

Readers will agree: All differences should be hugged, er, embraced. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-9271-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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Aims high but falls flat.

WILD SYMPHONY

Through 20 short poems, Maestro Mouse invites readers to meet a series of animals who have lessons to impart and a symphony to perform.

Brown, author of The DaVinci Code (2003) and other wildly popular titles for adults, here offers young listeners a poetry collection accompanied by music: a “symphony” performed, for readers equipped with an audio device and an internet connection, by the Zagreb Festival Orchestra. From the introduction of the conductor and the opening “Woodbird Welcome” to the closing “Cricket Lullaby,” the writer/composer uses poems made of three to eight rhyming couplets, each line with four strong beats, to introduce the animals who will be revealed in the final double gatefold as the players in an all-animal orchestra. Each poem also contains a lesson, reinforced by a short message (often on a banner or signpost). Thus, “When life trips them up a bit, / Cats just make the best of it” concludes the poem “Clumsy Kittens,” which is encapsulated by “Falling down is part of life. The best thing to do is get back on your feet!” The individual songs and poems may appeal to the intended audience, but collectively they don’t have enough variety to be read aloud straight through. Nor does the gathering of the orchestra provide a narrative arc. Batori’s cartoon illustrations are whimsically engaging, however. They include puzzles: hard-to-find letters that are said to form anagrams of instrument names and a bee who turns up somewhere in every scene.

Aims high but falls flat. (Complete composition not available for review.) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12384-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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