Weird, wonderful, and proof that journeying to places of uncertainty and unfamiliarity can feel extraordinarily exciting.

READ REVIEW

SMON SMON

Welcome to the planet Gon Gon, where the Smon Smon “hangs its last ron ron next to its won won on a lon lon and floats away in a ton ton.”

Ruddy pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations help disoriented readers make sense of these words and this woodsy world, a place looming with what resembles knobby bark, nutshells, mushrooms, thistles, slender vines, and berries. Matryoshka-looking beings named Smon Smons and the even smaller Klon Klons live and work gathering fruit in this dusky, autumnal place. Cross-referencing words and pictures, readers puzzle out meanings with pleasure: ron ron = a fruit or vegetable; won won = a bed made of soft deciduous fiber; lon lon = a rope; ton ton = a concave vessel, studded and bumpy on the outside, smooth on the inside. Vocabulary builds with each page turn, and readers grow more comfortable with this punchy single-syllabic alien lexicon, one perfect for a disarming read-aloud. The Smon Smon remains sweetly elusive as it perambulates and cheerily gathers food. Rosy-cheeked, its arched brows and nose tip painted black, the Smon Smon extends its neck impressive lengths when needed. Its gender remains ambiguous throughout, even when the Smon Smon finally reaches its resting place and another who seems its mate. The Smon Smons smile inscrutably, delightfully difficult to discern or affix to familiar paradigms.

Weird, wonderful, and proof that journeying to places of uncertainty and unfamiliarity can feel extraordinarily exciting. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4307-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Cool beans indeed.

THE COOL BEAN

A supposed “has-bean” shows that coolness has more to do with deeds than demeanor.

Offering further moral instruction in this leguminous cousin to The Bad Seed (2017) and The Good Egg (2019), Oswald portrays three beans—each a different species but all sporting boss shades, fly threads, and that requisite air of nonchalance—bringing the cool to streets, hallways, playgrounds, and Leguma Beach. Meanwhile, a fourth (a scraggly-haired chickpea), whose efforts to echo the look and the ’tude have fallen flat, takes on the role of nerdy narrator to recall “olden days” when they all hung out in the same pod. Still, despite rolling separate ways (nobody’s fault: “That’s just how it is sometimes. You spend less time together, even though you’re not totally sure why”), when the uncool bean drops a lunch tray, skins a kid knee on the playground, or just needs a hint in class, one of the others is always on the scene toot suite. No biggie. And passing those casual acts of kindness forward? “Now that’s cool.” John’s good-hearted text makes some hay with the bean puns while Oswald’s pipe-stemmed limbs, googly eyes, and accessories give these anthropomorphic legumes lots of personality. As a fava to young audiences, pair with Jamie Michalak and Frank Kolar’s Frank and Bean (2019) for a musical combination.

Cool beans indeed. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-295452-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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