A unique, playful offering.

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THE INCREDIBLE ADVENTURES OF MARY JANE MOSQUITO

A wingless, friendless mosquito performs a musical in a new town.

Highway brings his one-act play to picture-book format: the text is made up of script, song lyrics (with a bit of musical description but no music), and a few stage directions. Accompanied only by her piano player, Mary Jane Mosquito relates her life story. Its primary theme is that she differs from other mosquitoes because she has no wings. The script and songs portray this as a social disability: winglessness, here, prevents friendships. (It also prevents flying, but that’s unimportant.) She solves her lack of friends by befriending the audience of this performance and teaching them words from “my language.” She calls it “the language of mosquitoes,” but it’s actually Cree; Highway is Cree himself. Todd’s linoleum-cut prints, digitally colored, show Mary Jane onstage and in past scenes (in these flashbacks, other characters appear; besides the wings, they look human, as does Mary Jane). This theatrical star’s dress-up and postures evoke Maurice Sendak’s Really Rosie, from his 1975 animated musical with Carole King. Indigenous-style masks, hung as decoration, double as comedy/tragedy masks. Highway’s enthusiastic song lyrics vary in structure and scansion, providing ample creative opportunity for readers who want to sing them. The conflation of disability and unpopularity—Mary Jane, if she has friends, can fly “in [her] heart”—is regrettable. As a play, this would be a piquant choice for a teenage troupe; as a picture book, it’s best used with early elementary children.

A unique, playful offering. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 70

Publisher: Fifth House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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