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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More trampling in the vineyards of the Literary Classics section, with results that will tickle fancies high and low.

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DOG MAN AND CAT KID

From the Dog Man series , Vol. 4

Recasting Dog Man and his feline ward, Li’l Petey, as costumed superheroes, Pilkey looks East of Eden in this follow-up to Tale of Two Kitties (2017).

The Steinbeck novel’s Cain/Abel motif gets some play here, as Petey, “world’s evilest cat” and cloned Li’l Petey’s original, tries assiduously to tempt his angelic counterpart over to the dark side only to be met, ultimately at least, by Li’l Petey’s “Thou mayest.” (There are also occasional direct quotes from the novel.) But inner struggles between good and evil assume distinctly subordinate roles to riotous outer ones, as Petey repurposes robots built for a movie about the exploits of Dog Man—“the thinking man’s Rin Tin Tin”—while leading a general rush to the studio’s costume department for appropriate good guy/bad guy outfits in preparation for the climactic battle. During said battle and along the way Pilkey tucks in multiple Flip-O-Rama inserts as well as general gags. He lists no fewer than nine ways to ask “who cut the cheese?” and includes both punny chapter titles (“The Bark Knight Rises”) and nods to Hamilton and Mary Poppins. The cartoon art, neatly and brightly colored by Garibaldi, is both as easy to read as the snappy dialogue and properly endowed with outsized sound effects, figures displaying a range of skin colors, and glimpses of underwear (even on robots).

More trampling in the vineyards of the Literary Classics section, with results that will tickle fancies high and low. (drawing instructions) (Graphic fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-93518-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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