A rare treat for sensitive and artistic readers.

WHERE ARE YOU, AGNES?

The artist Agnes Martin’s childhood and its influences are imaginatively portrayed in this picture book from Canada.

While the author’s note at the end of the book makes clear that the narrative is influenced, but not constrained, by events in Martin’s life, the story does successfully establish a tone that gets at the sensitivity of the famed abstract artist. The language is simple and evocative, and its repetition of phrases grounds its key concept—that beauty exists in the mind—which could have otherwise become too vague for the audience. Agnes is shown as a child growing up in the prairie of Saskatchewan and being introduced to its beauty by her beloved grandfather. Her family’s move to the city challenges Agnes’ need for visual beauty, but again, her grandfather helps her to see the beauty inside. As subtly effective as the narrative is, the illustrations are sublime. Working in the delicacy of watercolor and colored pencil and using negative space prominently, Celej inserts judicious bits of cut collage, the sharply defined edges of which visually heighten the softness of the other media. The result is art that is both soft, emanating visual possibility, and ordered—much like the minimalist work of Martin herself. A palette that modulates from the grays of the city back to the soft colors of the prairie acts as a visual cue to Agnes’ internal artistic flowering. All people shown are illustrated as White.

(This book releases first as a digital edition, with print release currently scheduled for Aug. 4, 2020.)

A rare treat for sensitive and artistic readers. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77306-140-5

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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As ephemeral as a valentine.

LOVE FROM THE CRAYONS

Daywalt and Jeffers’ wandering crayons explore love.

Each double-page spread offers readers a vision of one of the anthropomorphic crayons on the left along with the statement “Love is [color].” The word love is represented by a small heart in the appropriate color. Opposite, childlike crayon drawings explain how that color represents love. So, readers learn, “love is green. / Because love is helpful.” The accompanying crayon drawing depicts two alligators, one holding a recycling bin and the other tossing a plastic cup into it, offering readers two ways of understanding green. Some statements are thought-provoking: “Love is white. / Because sometimes love is hard to see,” reaches beyond the immediate image of a cat’s yellow eyes, pink nose, and black mouth and whiskers, its white face and body indistinguishable from the paper it’s drawn on, to prompt real questions. “Love is brown. / Because sometimes love stinks,” on the other hand, depicted by a brown bear standing next to a brown, squiggly turd, may provoke giggles but is fundamentally a cheap laugh. Some of the color assignments have a distinctly arbitrary feel: Why is purple associated with the imagination and pink with silliness? Fans of The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) hoping for more clever, metaliterary fun will be disappointed by this rather syrupy read.

As ephemeral as a valentine. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-9268-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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