Exuding a zest for living and loving, this nautical narrative is an ode to joy.

In this tender story, a newborn duckling experiences music as sweet solace and meaningful communication while searching for love.

Moments before a “sudden and mighty gale whipped the seas into a raging fury,” a beaming Capt. Alfred had bestowed a name on the fragile egg nestled in his violin case—a present for his wife. The jovial bald white man had fiddled for his crew (ducks and dog), leading them in a merry, anticipatory dance. As stirring language and sweeping brush strokes conjure a fearsome tempest, a capsized boat, and a silent fog, everything disappears. Eventually Alfred Fiddleduckling emerges, floating along in an open violin case, reaching out to caress a piece of flotsam: the fiddle; he continues to interact with it after reaching land, captivated by its voice. The sounds from the instrument, rendered in acrylics as swirls of brilliant, feathery colors, waft through the dense atmosphere, finding first the dog and then the captain’s anxious wife (also white). Ering replaces words with visual clues to suggest homecoming, thereby avoiding a too-tidy conclusion. The vibrant yellow of the protagonist merges with the home’s brilliant illumination in the final scene. Layered with energetic paint strokes, delicate ink drawings, and warm touches of charcoal and graphite, the compositions are full of high drama, nuanced emotion, and humor.

Exuding a zest for living and loving, this nautical narrative is an ode to joy. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6432-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Oct. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016


Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022


An upbeat tale with a much-needed message: Imagination and positivity can save the day.

In this picture book from pop star Kevin Jonas and his wife, TV personality Danielle Jonas, a rainy day forces a child to find an alternate way to enjoy the beach.

Family beach day is one of Bella’s favorite things. She loves splashing in the waves, jumping from rock to rock, and building sand castles. Today, however, the weather isn’t cooperating, but Bella isn’t upset. “It will just have to stop raining. That’s all.” Disappointment sets in when her family tells her that beach day is off. Teary Bella rejects suggested indoor pastimes like board games, musical jam sessions, or reading stories together, and she retreats to her room. Dejected, Bella consoles herself with her stuffed bunny, Mr. Bonkers, until her parents and sister, Emma, knock on her door with a surprise: “BEDROOM BEACH DAY!” With just a few household items—a big lamp for the sun, a fan for the ocean breeze, a blue blanket for water, and pillows for rocks—and a large dose of imagination, Bella’s bedroom is transformed. A flexible attitude from all helps Bella—and readers—realize that things may not always go as planned…but sometimes they can be even better than we expected. Whimsical, cartoonish drawings and a dialogue-driven narrative turn a setback into an uplifting family experience. Bella and her family are light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An upbeat tale with a much-needed message: Imagination and positivity can save the day. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: July 11, 2023

ISBN: 9780593352106

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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