A well-meaning but not fully successful picture book for those on the autistic spectrum.

ALIENATED

An autistic boy views the world as being inhabited by brightly colored aliens, very different from his human self—until he sees a new girl who looks a lot like him.

Brief rhyming verse that often fails to scan accompanies the lively, exceptionally colorful illustrations of myriad differently shaped aliens (including the boy’s parents and brother) engaged in everyday activities. In addition to not looking like an alien, the boy is also socially isolated: “They eat their lunch together. / I eat my lunch alone.” The accompanying illustration shows him sitting by himself at a cafeteria table, but, strangely, there is an extra tray of food next to him. After he asks his tentacled, multieyed father about the new girl, his parent reassures him: “Dad tells me that some people see / the world through different eyes. / She is special just like I am, / which takes me by surprise.” They invite the girl over. The pair share space but don’t interact. Nonetheless, her presence is comforting. The concept that the boy and girl (who are both white) see themselves as different from everyone else is shown—although it’s a bit murky since each alien is also quite unique—but younger children on the autism spectrum might be inclined to take the images literally and not understand the deeper message.

A well-meaning but not fully successful picture book for those on the autistic spectrum. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63411-007-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Thunderstone Books

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books.

BUSY BETTY

Actor and author Witherspoon makes her picture-book debut.

Betty, a light-skinned, bespectacled child with blond pigtails, was born busy. Constantly in motion, Betty builds big block towers, cartwheels around the house (underfoot, of course), and plays with the family’s “fantabulous” dog, Frank, who is stinky and dirty. That leads to a big, busy, bright idea that, predictably, caroms toward calamity yet drags along enough hilarity to be entertaining. With a little help from best friend Mae (light-skinned with dark hair), the catastrophe turns into a lucrative dog-washing business. Busy Betty is once again ready to rush off to the next big thing. Yan uses vivid, pastel colors for a spread of a group of diverse kids bringing their dogs to be washed, helping out, and having fun, while the grown-ups are muted and relegated to the background. Extreme angles in several of the illustrations effectively convey a sense of perpetual motion and heighten the story’s tension, drawing readers in. An especially effective, glitter-strewn spread portrays Frank looming large and seemingly running off the page while Betty looks on, stricken at the ensuing mess. Though it’s a familiar and easily resolved story, Witherspoon’s rollicking text never holds back, replete with amusing phrases such as “sweet cinnamon biscuits,” “bouncing biscuits,” and “busted biscuits.” As Betty says, “Being busy is a great way to be.” Young readers are sure to agree. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An entertaining, if light, addition to the growing shelf of celebrity-authored picture books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-46588-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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Desperation confused for hysterics.

IF YOU LAUGH, I'M STARTING THIS BOOK OVER

Harris’ latest makes an urgent plea for somber reflection.

“Stop! Stop!! Stop!!!” Right from the get-go, readers are presented with three rules for reading this book (“Don’t look at this book!” “Do look at your listener!” “Get your listener to look at you!”). But the true lesson is in the title itself: If anyone listening to this book laughs, you have to start it all over. Challenge accepted? Good. Sheer frenetic energy propels what passes for a narrative as the book uses every trick up its sleeve to give kids the giggles. Silly names, ridiculous premises, and kooky art combine, all attempting some level of hilarity. Bloch’s art provides a visual cacophony of collaged elements, all jostling for the audience’s attention. Heavily influenced by similar fourth wall–busting titles like The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales (1992) by Jon Scieszka, illustrated by Lane Smith, and the more contemporary The Book With No Pictures (2014) by B.J. Novak, these attempts to win over readers and make them laugh will result in less giggles than one might imagine. In the end, the ultimate success of this book may rest less on the art or text and more on the strength of the reader’s presentation. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Desperation confused for hysterics. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-42488-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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