Though the message is nothing new, the moments of humor and emotional resonance in this brave little ghost’s story make this...

THE RIGHT ONE FOR RODERIC

The smallest ghost in the family yearns to be noticed.

Little Roderic feels small and overlooked by his family. Wanting to be seen, he decides to try changing his appearance. On top of his standard white sheet, he adds a hat…and then another and another. But that doesn’t work out. Nor does a scarf. He tries taking off his white sheet (revealing his green, ectoplasmic essence) and changing his entire wardrobe, but that doesn’t go over well with the family. “Ghosts just don’t dress like that,” his elders say. He tries going to the city, where perhaps people will notice and appreciate his fashion. But “they [don’t] even see him.” So he returns home, where he has been missed, and the family drapes him in another white sheet, but he doesn’t settle for that. Roderic finally happens upon an outfit that feels just right, and he tells his family, “I am going to be different!!” Not only is he accepted, but his family is inspired to experiment too. The simple digital illustrations effectively use color and composition to set the endearing protagonist against unwelcoming crowds, including the city’s multihued sea of people, and to highlight his mostly lonesome journey.

Though the message is nothing new, the moments of humor and emotional resonance in this brave little ghost’s story make this one worth a read. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0572-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Templar/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

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. 2, 2021

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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