Children will enjoy the setup and the interactions, but the ending may well leave them cold.

READ REVIEW

WHEN ANGUS MET ALVIN

The course of alien friendship never did run smooth.

Angus the alien is a bit unusual. In fact, he’s rather human, preferring his garden to rockets and laser guns. He likes peace and quiet. One day, a spaceship crashes in the middle of his lawn, and out jumps a raucous alien named Alvin. Readers know Alvin’s loud because he speaks in boldface type. “I’ve come to show you my special space skills,” Alvin announces. He turns on his jet boots and starts whizzing all around. Angus responds with a quieter skill: He twists his ears and a tuft of pink feathers sprouts from his head. Then Alvin behaves in a most ungracious manner, twisting his ears to produce scores of feathers and boastfully cartwheeling all around, stomping on Angus’s pansies. Alvin’s obsession with one-upmanship ends predictably in disaster, but Angus restores him to normal. To show his gratitude, he prepares a big feast for Angus before abruptly taking off; Angus isn’t sorry to see him go. Pickford’s pencil, acrylic and digital illustrations pop with humor and bright colors. The plot, however imaginative and well-tuned to the kinetic energy of the very young, is marred by the sour ending, making the book seem more like a string of one-liners than a story.

Children will enjoy the setup and the interactions, but the ending may well leave them cold. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-84780-304-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Stronger bedtime and alien books abound in the universe of children’s literature.

OUTER SPACE BEDTIME RACE

A melding of fact and fiction strives to present a bedtime lesson on the solar system.

Two earthling children drift off to sleep as the book opens, and successive spreads describe the bedtime routines of sleepy little extraterrestrials on Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto. Endpapers underscore the title’s reference to a “race” by depicting the planets as first-through-ninth–place medals according to their respective distances from the sun. This seems to refer more to solar years instead of days with regard to the measurement of the time (how long it takes to travel around the sun, versus how long it takes for a day to pass), which muddies the bedtime theme a bit. After all, planetary days are dictated by rotation and vary in length without necessarily corresponding to the annual “race” around the sun. Backmatter entitled “Sleepy Bedtime Planet Factoids” help to ground the text in scientific facts about the planets, but this can’t fully mitigate how stumbling rhymes and twee wordplay grate—“Uranus is a gassy place. / They sleep with masks stuck to each face.” Won’s digital artwork has a retro sensibility. An isolated inclusion of a brown-skinned boy on the second spread smacks of tokenism, since all other representations of human children depict the same Caucasian boys (the children of Neptune display more diversity by comparison).

Stronger bedtime and alien books abound in the universe of children’s literature. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38647-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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A peaceful, wordless adventure that, as the final frames hint, will continue after it’s closed.

RED AGAIN

Through a magical book, two faraway children meet.

This wordless picture book picks up directly where The Red Book (2004) left off: the third illustration in this is almost identical to the last one in the previous, with a tiny smile added. This time, a black child wearing a blue hoodie and glasses is the finder of the titular red book. The child bikes home through city snow and climbs the stairs of a quirky, cupola-topped house. Opened, the red book’s pages feature increasing close-ups that reveal a beige-skinned child in a fishing boat afloat off a faraway island. That child pulls in a similar red book from the sea and opens it to see the bespectacled city kid back at home. They’re looking at each other! Wordlessly, they form a mutual fondness. The kid in the boat finds an ingenious way to cross the world to their new friend—not through the book (it’s not that kind of magic) but, delightfully, towed by a pelican. There’s sadness and doubt during a brief period when the kids can’t see each other, and then there’s joy. Lehman’s illustrations are structured like comic panels, varying in size and shape and surrounded by white space; in watercolor, gouache, and ink she shows figures and landscapes with gentle textures and neat black outlines.

A peaceful, wordless adventure that, as the final frames hint, will continue after it’s closed. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-81859-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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