Extraordinary, emotional, and beautifully rendered.

SMALL IN THE CITY

A child navigates the city’s relentless sights and sounds.

The child, light-skinned but with race and gender ambiguous under layers of winter outerwear, pulls the stop-request string inside the bus and trundles into the midtown maw. A savvy kid, but so small within the double-page spread of skyscrapers, commuters, stoplights, and construction. Text appears in the white space between buildings, “I know what it’s like to be small in the city.” Young readers will feel their hearts constrict, as they all know what it’s like to confront a towering, intimidating world. Hand-drawn frames, presented in quadrants, contain both powerful close-ups and wider scenes (taxi taillights, crosswalks, chain fencing, the child’s bobbing pom-pom) that mark time and distance. A page turn delivers full-page pictures of the looming city, with dizzying linework and detail. Cinematic scenes feel at once atmospheric and photorealistic. With snow accumulating and light dwindling, the narrator gives voice to the reader’s concern: “People don’t see you and loud sounds can scare you, and knowing what to do is hard sometimes.” This incisive language distills the hardest part of childhood: the precarious hold small people have on their own agency. A brilliant narrative twist reveals itself at the end of this tender picture book, which stretches readers’ concern painfully as the voice begins warning of dark alleys and dogs, and points to warm churches and free food.

Extraordinary, emotional, and beautifully rendered. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4261-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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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 plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale.

A TRUE HOME

From the Heartwood Hotel series , Vol. 1

An orphan mouse unexpectedly arrives at Heartwood Hotel, which she hopes will become the home she’s seeking.

Mona’s never had a home for long. After a storm forces her to flee her latest forest shelter, she discovers an enormous tree with a heart carved into its trunk. When Mona presses the heart, a door opens, and she enters the lobby of Heartwood Hotel, where small forest critters hibernate, eat, and celebrate in safety. The kindhearted badger proprietor, Mr. Heartwood, takes pity on homeless Mona, allowing her to stay for the fall to assist the maid, Tilly, a red squirrel. Grateful to be at Heartwood, Mona strives to prove herself despite Tilly’s unfriendly attitude. Mona’s clever approaches with a wounded songbird, an anxious skunk, and a wayward bear win Mr. Heartwood’s approval. But when Mona accidentally breaks a rule, Tilly convinces her she will be fired. As Mona secretly leaves Heartwood, she discovers marauding wolves planning to crash Heartwood’s Snow Festival and devises a daring plan to save the place she regards as home. Charming anthropomorphic characters, humorous mishaps, and outside threats add to the drama. Delicate pencil illustrations reinforce Heartwood’s cozy home theme. A sequel, The Greatest Gift, publishes simultaneously.

A plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale. (Animal fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-3161-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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