Cultural details rather than a strong storyline dominate, but this informative glimpse of Native Americans' successfully...

CHARLIE AND THE BLANKET TOSS

A young boy overcomes his anxiety about taking a celebratory flip in this brief but immersive look at modern Inupiat village culture.

Though Charlie’s feelings about the toss—a traditional activity of the Nalukataq, or Summer Whaling Festival—are mixed, he looks forward to much of the rest of the celebration. He loves the drumming, the dancing, the proud sharing out of the bowhead whale that his father and other whalers have harvested, and particularly the uqsrukuaqtaq (doughnuts), mikigaq (“fermented whale meat with blubber and tongue”), akutuq (“ice cream” made with caribou fat) and other delectable foods that have been laid out on tables behind a tall windbreak of plastic sheets. Brown supplies pronunciation guides and definitions either in context or in the appended glossary for the many Inupiaq words in her short narrative. Though very thinly applied colors give the illustrations a diaphanous look, Martinsen provides plenty of culturally specific visual details as well as lots of smiling, round faces. Buoyed by his grandmother’s tale of her own grandfather’s blanket toss as well as memories of his older brother’s, Charlie decides he’s ready. A wordless spread with Charlie flying high over the curve of the Earth, a whale spouting in the background and the community holding the blanket tight says it all.

Cultural details rather than a strong storyline dominate, but this informative glimpse of Native Americans' successfully blending new and old lifeways is valuable nevertheless. (afterword) (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-941821-07-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Alaska Northwest Books

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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