A fine addition to the word-book shelf, aside from that crocodile.

MY BIG BAREFOOT BOOK OF WONDERFUL WORDS

This multicultural take on a Busytown sort of place is rife with opportunities for I-spy reading and language acquisition.

The multigeneration, multiethnic Palabra family lives in a house that buzzes with activity. A helpful title-page illustration first introduces Mom, Dad, Pop Pop, Sam, May, Felix and Zanzibar the cat. There’s also an anthropomorphic crocodile named Crunchy—this is the only clear instance of fantasy to enter the little world, and while it might be intended for comic relief from page to page, it ends up undermining the earnest multicultural worldbuilding of the rest of the book. Multiracial families, same-sex couples, people using wheelchairs and others wearing hijab are just a few examples of the diversity of humanity that is included in the pictures, and Crunchy ends up seeming simply intrusive. Most of the story follows Pop Pop, Sam, Maya and, alas, Crunchy, as they go out into their town to visit the library, play in the park and have lunch. The brief narrative text introduces these activities, but the aim of the book is to invite perusal of spreads that are jam-packed with detailed, labeled pictures of people, places and things in the community. The boldly colored art adopts a naïve style with a folk-art sensibility that is accessible and engaging.

A fine addition to the word-book shelf, aside from that crocodile. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-78285-092-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Barefoot Books

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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Sweet—and savory.

THE KEEPER OF WILD WORDS

When a girl visits her grandmother, a writer and “grand friend,” she is seeking something special to share at show and tell on the first day of school.

Before Brook can explain, Mimi expresses concern that certain words describing the natural world will disappear if someone doesn’t care for and use them. (An author’s note explains the author’s motivation: She had read of the removal of 100 words about outdoor phenomena from the Oxford Junior Dictionary.) The duo sets out to search for and experience the 19 words on Mimi’s list, from “acorn” and “buttercup” to “violet” and “willow.” Kloepper’s soft illustrations feature green and brown earth tones that frame the white, matte pages; bursts of red, purple, and other spot colors enliven the scenes. Both Mimi and Brook are depicted as white. The expedition is described in vivid language, organized as free verse in single sentences or short paragraphs. Key words are printed in color in a larger display type and capital letters. Sensory details allow the protagonist to hear, see, smell, taste, and hold the wild: “ ‘Quick! Make a wish!’ said Mimi, / holding out a DANDELION, / fairy dust sitting on a stem. / ‘Blow on it and the seeds will fly. / Your tiny wishes in the air.’ ” It’s a day of wonder, with a touch of danger and a solution to Brook’s quest. The last page forms an envelope for readers’ own vocabulary collections.

Sweet—and savory. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7073-2

Page Count: 62

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Cute and brave—gee, Rot’s spud-tacular!

ROT, THE BRAVEST IN THE WORLD!

A “scaredy-spud” puts on his brave face.

All “mutant potatoes” love mud. Mud is good for playing games, eating, and even sleeping. But few taters have more tender feelings toward muck than Rot. À la Pete the Cat, Rot celebrates mud in song: “Mud between my toes! / Mud in my nose! / Mud is GREAT / wherever it GOES!” When Rot’s big brother, Snot, tells Rot about the Squirm that lives “deep down in the mushy muck,” his love quickly turns to fear. But he doesn’t give up! Instead, Rot imagines himself in various disguises to work up courage. There’s “Super Spud” (a superhero), “Sir Super Rot, the Brave and Bold” (a superhero-knight), and even “Sir Super Rot the Pigtato” (a, um, superhero-knight-pig-potato). The disguises are one thing, but, deep down, is Rot really brave enough to face the Squirm? Readers wooed by Rot’s charm in Rot: The Cutest in the World (2017) will laugh out loud at this well-paced encore—and it’s not just because of the butt cracks. Clanton creates a winning dynamic, balancing Rot’s earnestness, witty dialogue, and an omniscient, slightly melodramatic narrator. The cartoon illustrations were created using watercolors, colored pencils, digital collage, and—brilliantly—potato stamps. Clanton’s reliance on earth tones makes for some clever, surprising page turns when the palette is broken.

Cute and brave—gee, Rot’s spud-tacular! (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6764-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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