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


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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This simple and sincere tale of working up courage to face fears makes quite a splash.


Young Jabari decides today is the day he is going to jump from the diving board, even though it’s a little high and a little scary.

Jabari’s father and baby sister accompany him to the swimming pool in the city, where Jabari has already made up his mind about today’s goal: jumping off the diving board. “I’m a great jumper,” he says, “so I’m not scared at all.” But that’s not entirely true. Readers see Jabari play the waiting game as the other children (a diverse bunch) make their ways past him in line. Once Jabari finally begins to climb up, he slyly remembers that he forgot to “stretch.” The stalling techniques don’t faze his dad, who sees an opportunity for a life lesson. “It’s okay to feel a little scared,” offers his dad at the side of the pool. With renewed will, Jabari returns to the towering diving board, ready to embrace the feat. In her debut, Cornwall places her loving black family at the center, coloring the swimming pool and park beyond in minty hues and adding whimsy with digitally collaged newspaper for skyscrapers. A bird’s-eye view of Jabari’s toes clinging to the edge of the diving board as he looks way, way down at the blue pool below puts readers in his head and in the action.

This simple and sincere tale of working up courage to face fears makes quite a splash. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7838-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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