Delightful. (Picture book. 4-7)

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NORM

A picture-book paean to individuality.

Norm, short for Normal, is pretty much just like his pals, Plain and Simple. They live in a village where everything is “very tidy and orderly” and their favorite thing to do is measure things with the rulers they carry about with them. If something doesn’t measure up to usual dimensions, they get rid of it. And worse, “[i]f someone stands out, we politely look the other way.” The image accompanying this line shows a redheaded person standing apart from the black-haired Norm, Plain, and Simple, with downcast eyes. A challenge to this world’s conformity arrives with a bright yellow bird that “won’t sit still long enough to be measured.” Norm chases it to “an extraordinarily big flower,” and nearby is a girl who he says is “unlike any girl I have met before.” Her name is Odette, Odd for short, and she introduces Norm to a whole new world, where houses look like boots, anthropomorphic animals interact with people, and instead of measuring things, the focus is on “discover[ing] the most curious surprises.” While the verbal storytelling is a bit clunky and risks letting message trump narrative, the illustrations offer a visual feast. Whimsical details crop up on each spread, and Liang’s playful style seems influenced by illustrators such as John Burningham, Jean de Brunhoff, and Květa Pacovská.

Delightful. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-500-65161-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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RAIN SCHOOL

It takes a village to make a school. In Chad, big brothers and sisters lead the way for younger children on the first day of school. Little Thomas is full of questions. When he and the other children arrive, there are no classrooms and no desks. But the teacher's there, holding a trowel. "We will build our school," she declares. Everyone sets to work, making mud bricks that dry in the sun and a roof out of grass and saplings. Thomas loves his lessons; every day he learns something new. At the end of the school year, the minds of the students "are fat with knowledge." And just in time: The rainy season arrives and makes short work of the schoolhouse. Come September, they'll start all over. Rumford's illustrations make great use of color, dark brown skin and bright shirts, shorts and dresses against golden backgrounds, the hues applied in smudgy layers that infuse each scene with warmth—until the gray rains arrive. It's a nifty social-studies lesson tucked into a warm tale of community. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-547-24307-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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