A high-stepping tribute to friendships, musical and otherwise.

ELLA THE SWINGING DUCK

A scat-singing duckling sets out in search of soul mates in this Dutch/Belgian import.

Waddling and warbling to her own rhythms, little yellow Ella seems a silly duck to her dignified parents (one white, the other a mallard) and sibs Wolfgang, Ludwig, Hildegard, Johan-Sebastian, Clara-Belle, and Amadeus. Is there anyone who will sing and swing with her? Not the dove (“I only sing alone”) nor the croaking frog choir, alas—but what’s this? Out of the reeds comes a “Doo daa dee” to echo her own! It’s a young (what else?) trumpeter swan who introduces himself as Dizzy: “Everybody teases me because I like to blast with my bill.” “I like your blast!” responds Ella, and in no time the tuneful twosome has the whole wild woodland crew, ducks and all, kicking up its heels with a “Quack quack doobee daa!” Berenschot sticks to brush work and subdued colors, which give her generally low-angled pondside scenes a mildly hazy, antique look reminiscent of mid-20th-century illustration. Though on a few pages the narrative blocks look too small, on others manipulation of type size and weight adds to the tale’s jazzy bounce. And even though the nods to musical greats of the past may go over the heads of younger audiences, the notion that sweet harmonies have the power to move both feet and spirits is timeless.

A high-stepping tribute to friendships, musical and otherwise. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-60537-498-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clavis

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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