As ever, the force of nostalgia is strong; the force of narrative, not so much.

JACK FROST

From the Guardians of Childhood series

The tale of the only Guardian of Childhood to be a child himself turns out to be hinged on battles and transformations.

With flights of baroque fancy in both language and art, the story opens with Nightlight, oath-bound protector of the rotund lad who would become the Man in the Moon, locked in “fierce and valiant” battle with would-be kidnapper Pitch, the Nightmare King. The long, recuperative sleep that follows changes Nightlight to Jackson Overland Frost—a wild, lonely spirit who wanders the Earth spreading winter until the rescue of a family of errant children gives him fresh purpose: to protect not just one child, but all of them, “For they are all that I have, all that I am, / And all that I will ever be.” An elfin, slender figure in tight trousers and a stylish hoodie, his tousled silver locks in definite need of a trim or at least a comb, Jack seems to have stepped from some manga to pose theatrically amid late-autumnal sprays of mist and dramatic, cloudy curlicues. Nonetheless, the children’s elegant, Edwardian dress and references to a lost Golden Age in the mannered narrative intensify the retro atmosphere common to this series.

As ever, the force of nostalgia is strong; the force of narrative, not so much. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4424-3043-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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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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