UNDER THE BLANKET SKY

Sunlight and feathers are the stars of the show, but the intended audience of this story is clearly its adult consumers.

The enchanted haze of childhood serves as the backdrop for a nostalgia-soaked tale.

One summer morning, a bespectacled, light-skinned child encounters “a strange creature” in the backyard. We see what appears to be a gargantuan fuzzy owlet gazing down at the nameless young narrator, eyes sparkling. The two soon become inseparable, the child showing the newcomer “all my favorite things to do / and places to spend time.” Wordless spread after wordless spread showcases a childhood filled with push-button landline phones, stuffed animals, and toy trucks, all cast in the cozy glow of sun-filtered imagery. The creature looks on as the child wields a sword, draws with sidewalk chalk, and plays with a toy robot; snuggled up against a pillow, the two fall asleep together. We’re deep in “Puff, the Magic Dragon” territory here as autumn arrives and the friend must move on as our hero prepares for the first day of school. Fischer leans heavily on Gen-X wistfulness in his illustrations, conjuring up a world absent of adults or even other people. While the dreamlike art proves to be the true lure, the storytelling rehashes a familiar theme more likely to be appreciated by grown-ups—saying goodbye to a beloved part of childhood on the path to growing up.  (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sunlight and feathers are the stars of the show, but the intended audience of this story is clearly its adult consumers. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 30, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-593-64591-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

DON'T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE SLEIGH!

A stocking stuffer par excellence, just right for dishing up with milk and cookies.

Pigeon finds something better to drive than some old bus.

This time it’s Santa delivering the fateful titular words, and with a “Ho. Ho. Whoa!” the badgering begins: “C’mon! Where’s your holiday spirit? It would be a Christmas MIRACLE! Don’t you want to be part of a Christmas miracle…?” Pigeon is determined: “I can do Santa stuff!” Like wrapping gifts (though the accompanying illustration shows a rather untidy present), delivering them (the image of Pigeon attempting to get an oversize sack down a chimney will have little ones giggling), and eating plenty of cookies. Alas, as Willems’ legion of young fans will gleefully predict, not even Pigeon’s by-now well-honed persuasive powers (“I CAN BE JOLLY!”) will budge the sleigh’s large and stinky reindeer guardian. “BAH. Also humbug.” In the typically minimalist art, the frustrated feathered one sports a floppily expressive green and red elf hat for this seasonal addition to the series—but then discards it at the end for, uh oh, a pair of bunny ears. What could Pigeon have in mind now? “Egg delivery, anyone?”

A stocking stuffer par excellence, just right for dishing up with milk and cookies. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781454952770

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

THE INVISIBLE STRING

Sentimental but effective.

A book aimed at easing separation anxiety and reinforcing bonds.

Twins Liza and Jeremy awaken during a thunderstorm and go to their mother for comfort. She reassures them that they’re safe and says, “You know we’re always together, no matter what,” when they object to returning to bed. She then explains that when she was a child her mother told her about the titular “Invisible String,” encouraging them to envision it as a link between them no matter what. “People who love each other are always connected by a very special String made of love,” she tells them, reinforcing this idea as they proceed to imagine various scenarios, fantastic and otherwise, that might cause them to be separated in body. She also affirms that this string can “reach all the way to Uncle Brian in heaven” and that it doesn’t go away if she’s angry with them or when they have conflicts. As they go to bed, reassured, the children, who present white, imagine their friends and diverse people around the world connected with invisible strings, promoting a vision of global unity and empathy. While the writing often feels labored and needlessly repetitive, Lew-Vriethoff’s playful cartoon art enhances and lightens the message-driven text, which was originally published in 2000 with illustrations by Geoff Stevenson.

Sentimental but effective. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-48623-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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