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CARMEN AND THE HOUSE THAT GAUDÍ BUILT

Not a visual inspiration; at most, a jumping-off point about Casa Battló.

A fictionalized origin story of a real architectural marvel.

“Carmen Batlló, our very important visitor is here!” calls Carmen’s family, trying to lure her out of the woods around their country home. She’s reluctant. Nature comforts her, and when she’s alone, she can talk to her “invisible salamander,” Dragon, a huge, pale green, imaginary creature. The visitor is Antoni Gaudí, who, over time, designs a stunningly unusual city house for Carmen’s family. Gaudí, the Batlló family, and Casa Batlló—built between 1904 and 1906 in Barcelona—are all real; Hughes’ fancy is that Gaudí bases his wildly creative design on a personal, shared understanding with little Carmen about nature and Dragon. When the curving, glittering Casa Batlló reaches completion, Ferrer’s art does it tolerable justice. The front is shown with sinuous lines and covered in multicolored tiles (though the hues are off, and dark trees that flank it dominate), a blue room is depicted with layers of light as if undersea, and the undulating roof is pictured as a sculpture of, specifically, Dragon. Earlier, the illustrations are odd, portraying Carmen’s (and Gaudí’s) beloved nature scenes—supposedly wondrous because they’re devoid of “sharp corners”—as full of dark, ominous plants sharp enough to cut and sinister tertiary colors with mustard tones. The final house looks passably striking, though far less sparkly and unconventional than it should—as demonstrated with a closing photograph.

Not a visual inspiration; at most, a jumping-off point about Casa Battló. (author’s note, selected sources) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77147-392-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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CLAYMATES

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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