Readers will certainly make the leap and stay a while.

MY ISLAND

A young child invites readers into an imaginary world, provided they know how to “sing,” “share,” and “dream.”

Myriad birds, flying fish, sea anemones, snails, and other animals live on the pale child’s island, keeping company during tea parties, on paper-boat voyages, and inside a giant birdhouse. The child’s seriousness in orchestrating these island activities will make perfect sense to readers—they know imagining isn’t playtime. Pretending feels immensely personal, intimate even, and the child’s emotive brown eyes show this in their intensity and, at times, vulnerability. Visual accents (rosy cheeks, a chestnut bob, a kaleidoscopic sun dress, turquoise hair clip) make the protagonist’s tender age clear, as well as how extraordinarily dense, flamboyant, and boundless a very young child’s imagination can be. Watercolors, colored pencils, and stitched red thread (which appears as dotted lines incorporated into each illustration) create vivid pictures of this pretend place, where anything can happen. Lemony yellows, teal blues, tangerine oranges, and strawberry reds appear throughout, and while cheery, the palette and papers emit a matte, mellow softness. Similarly soothing, rounded contours create cushy compositions on each spread, from the curvature of a bear’s ear to leaves, petals, clouds, and the spiral of a seashell. The stitched, red linework links each imaginary experience with a thread of commonality, and its line breaks provide permeability, spaces for readers to cross over into the protagonist’s inner world.

Readers will certainly make the leap and stay a while. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61689-813-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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