GRANDPA'S TOP THREES

A gentle look at grief.

This quiet picture book starts with Henry, a little chatterbox, talking in a garden shed crowded with plants and implements. “But Grandpa was gardening. Again.” Grandpa doesn’t want to play trains or tell anyone what he wants for lunch. “Just give him time,” Mom says, hinting at something deeper. Henry engages his otherwise-mute grandfather by asking him about his “top three” sandwiches and jellyfish, generously offering his own opinions first. Slowly Grandpa comes out of his shell, a smile peeking out from behind his bushy beard. After a top-three day out (to the zoo, swimming pool, and park), Henry asks, “Who are your top three Grannies?” and goes on to answer: “Mine are Granny who is dead,” followed by his living grandmother and a fictional one. Readers thus finally learn the reason for Grandpa’s sadness and withdrawal as he shares more about his late wife, connecting with his grandson in the process. Well-paced and closely structured, this story works on every level, with Egnéus’ watercolors showing a range of emotion and activity, balancing clutter with space. It’s not quite a story for children processing grief, as Henry seems fairly unaffected, but it may help families explain to children why the grown-ups in their lives are behaving differently after loss. Henry and his family present white.

Peaceful and heartfelt . (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1125-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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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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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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