HOW I LEARNED TO FALL OUT OF TREES

A well-cultivated story that plants a seed about the value of friends and what they leave with us, even when they’re gone

Saying goodbye to a friend is tied together with the experience of climbing in Kirsch’s sentimental latest.

Roger learns a last lesson from his friend Adelia before her family moves away: how to climb a tree. “What if I fall?” he worries. What follows is a primer on both getting up into the leaves and coping with the loss of someone you’re attached to. Kirsch elegantly makes the connection with affirmations that work both ways: “Hang on tight with both hands”; “take it one branch at a time”; and, inevitably, “letting go will be the hardest part!” If it seems tree-twee, the pace and Roger’s perpetually grim but trusting face make up for it. The busily illustrated pages that show Roger and Adelia having their last moments together are intercut with items she’s collected to break Roger’s fall, presented on contrasting white backgrounds. These pages come across like warm, flashing memories. By the time Roger makes his solo climb and falls, smiling, into a gigantic pile of Adelia’s making, it feels like a tremendous and joyful payoff to what has previously seemed like a sad learning experience. Adding to the vibe are Kirsch’s careful details: bespectacled, pink-skinned Roger’s fussy clothing, brown-skinned Adelia’s flower garlands, the ridged texture of the tree itself. Close readers might wonder if Adelia falls victim to the “magical minority” trope, but as both children are equally swiftly sketched it does not seem to apply.

A well-cultivated story that plants a seed about the value of friends and what they leave with us, even when they’re gone . (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3413-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

CARPENTER'S HELPER

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Safe to creep on by.

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2021

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