SUNSETS OF THE WEST

The travels of a family from Maine are chronicled in the sights, smells, and sounds of their wagon journey. At first, Pa is the one with the urge to move west, a longing to see the Sierras and the prairie. But his longing gradually infects the whole family with new dreams as they experience the trail. Buffalo, wolves, Indians, other travelers, and the creak of the wagon and its contents are their constant companions . . . along with the new stars in the sky. With the new wonders also come new hardships—lack of rain, and then too much of it, the deaths of animals and newfound friends, and the giving up of precious possessions. The tears constantly mix with the hopes and dreams. But as the sun sets over the Sierras for the first time, the family knows it has reached home. Johnston (That Summer, p. 571, etc.) fills her characteristically fluid text with the sights and sounds the family was likely to encounter on their journey—things of interest to young readers. The trials and celebrations of the family can seem almost too extreme at times, with the wild swings from good to bad occurring only sentences apart. But each description feels comfortably right. Lewin’s (Big Jimmy’s Kum Kau: Chinese Take Out, 2001, etc.) stunning watercolors put the reader right on the prairie with the characters, making the experience real. His characters and scenery are infused with life and vividly portray the setting. A richly rewarding journey. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-22659-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.

ROBOBABY

Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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Heartfelt content for children who need to feel seen.

BEING YOU

Words addressed to children aimed at truth-telling, encouraging, and inspiring are accompanied by pictures of children of color going about their days.

“This story is about you,” the narrator opens, as a black boy looks up toward readers, a listening expression on his face. A multiracial group of children romp in a playground to encouraging words: “you are… / a dancer / a singer / in charge of the game.” Then comes a warning about the “whispers” out in the world that “tell you who you are / But only you and love decide.” There is advice about what to do when you “think there is nowhere safe”: “Watch a bird soar / and think, / Me too.” It asks readers to wonder: “If there was a sign on your chest / what would it say?” Children argue and show frustration and anger for reasons unclear to readers, then they hold up signs about themselves, such as “I am powerful” and “I am talented.” A girl looks hurt, and a boy looks “tough” until someone finds them “sitting there wondering / when the sky will blue.” While the words are general, the pictures specify a teacher, who is brown-skinned with straight black hair, as one who “can see you.” While young readers may find the wording unusual, even obscure in places, the nurturing message will not be lost.

Heartfelt content for children who need to feel seen. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68446-021-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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