A classroom-friendly call for social activism somewhat marred by a too-adult voice.

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HEY, WALL

A STORY OF ART AND COMMUNITY

Each day, a school-age child passes the neglected outer wall of what appears to be an abandoned movie theater in a diverse New York City neighborhood.

The streets bustle with kids, families, and traffic. Inside the child’s home the family hosts potlucks, and, on the roof, there is dancing and singing. These lively communal gatherings are in direct contrast to the blank, mute wall that everyone ignores—until the brown-skinned child takes charge. Together with neighbors and friends, armed with paint and sketches, they give life to their memories and imaginations. In no time at all, the wall is the neighborhood. Verde’s simple, expository, second-person narrative fluctuates between youthful exuberance and adult commentary as readers follow the tired wall through the seasons. “Soon we have filled you with colors, / creations, energy. / You are stone but you don’t have to be hard.” Parra’s familiar, flat matte illustrations chronicle the wall’s evolution until it reflects the neighborhood’s vibrancy back to the people who enliven its revitalized surface. Mural projects have often traditionally served as unifying forces within blighted, fragmented communities, but not in this case. The residents interact, are friendly, and are organically connected before the mural is planned. Since the unnamed child is the catalyst of this activity, it’s a pity the voice is not more consistently childlike.

A classroom-friendly call for social activism somewhat marred by a too-adult voice. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5313-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text.

BO'S MAGICAL NEW FRIEND

From the Unicorn Diaries series , Vol. 1

A unicorn learns a friendship lesson in this chapter-book series opener.

Unicorn Bo has friends but longs for a “bestie.” Luckily, a new unicorn pops into existence (literally: Unicorns appear on especially starry nights) and joins Bo at the Sparklegrove School for Unicorns, where they study things like unicorn magic. Each unicorn has a special power; Bo’s is granting wishes. Not knowing what his own might be distresses new unicorn Sunny. When the week’s assignment is to earn a patch by using their unicorn powers to help someone, Bo hopes Sunny will wish to know Bo's power (enabling both unicorns to complete the task, and besides, Bo enjoys Sunny’s company and wants to help him). But when the words come out wrong, Sunny thinks Bo was feigning friendship to get to grant a wish and earn a patch, setting up a fairly sophisticated conflict. Bo makes things up to Sunny, and then—with the unicorns friends again and no longer trying to force their powers—arising circumstances enable them to earn their patches. The cheerful illustrations feature a sherbet palette, using patterns for texture; on busy pages with background colors similar to the characters’ color schemes, this combines with the absence of outlines to make discerning some individual characters a challenge. The format, familiar to readers of Elliott’s Owl Diaries series, uses large print and speech bubbles to keep pages to a manageable amount of text.

A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-32332-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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