If it’s sugary-sweet stories you like, then this is your jam.

MALINA'S JAM

From the Walt Disney Animation Studios Artist Showcase series

This entry in the Walt Disney Animation Studios Artist Showcase, which publishes the books of Disney animators, is about a tea-loving, raspberry-eating bibliophile hedgehog.

Malina is shy and spends more time with her raspberry patch and books than with other creatures. Having built herself an impressive collection of preserved raspberry jam, she learns that her neighbors want to try some and ends up giving it all away. Her new friends return the favor by giving her some of their own favorite snacks as well as by helping her grow more raspberries, thereby replenishing her favorite treat and forging new friendships. Though the story concept and illustrations come from a Disney animator, the text comes from co-author Sauer, who uses simple sentences and repetition to build a tightly constructed story. There’s an overt sweetness to the illustrations, with the kind of bright-eyed, curly-lashed characters one sees in animated Disney films. Malina is an endearing character, though there’s not much else about this story and its execution that distinguishes it from other picture books about friendship and generosity. Disney fans may be interested in seeing an animator switch forms. Appended is a note from the illustrator about her background in animation and why she was happy to try her hand at a picture book. Also appended is a jam recipe—with a reminder to share.

If it’s sugary-sweet stories you like, then this is your jam. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-02458-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney Press

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life.

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BE YOU!

An inspirational picture book offers life advice for readers who want to be themselves.

Replete with sparkling, often quirky illustrations of children living their best lives, this book is a gorgeous guidebook for those seeking encouragement while encountering life’s challenges. The children featured—a racially diverse group ranging from infants to preschoolers—cheerfully navigate the various injunctions that flow through the text: “Be curious.…Be adventurous.…Be persistent.…Be kind.” What is remarkable about the book is that even though the instructions and the brief sentences explaining them are at times vague, the illustrations expand on them in ways readers will find endearing and uplifting. Those depicting painful or challenging moments are especially effective. The “Be persistent” double-page spread shows a child in a boat on stormy seas; it’s rich with deep blues as it emphasizes the energy of wind and rain and struggle in the face of challenge. Together with the accompanying repeated phrase “Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop,” this spread arrests readers. By contrast, the “Be kind. Be understanding” spread simply presents two children’s faces, one cast in blue and the other in gold, but the empathy that Reynolds conveys is similarly captivating. While there is no plot to pull readers through the pages, the book provides rich fodder for caregivers to use as teachable moments, both informally and in classroom settings.

Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-57231-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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