A wide-eyed, open-hearted evocation of a refugee’s experience.

CROCODILE'S CROSSING

A SEARCH FOR HOME

In this Belgian import, Crocodile must leave his home when “the trouble” comes.

“ ‘Everything will be better where I’m going!’ he thought. ‘But where is that?’ ” Crocodile’s journey across the sea takes him to towering cities, arid deserts, and sparse countrysides, each more different and unwelcoming than the last. Wherever he lands, he finds hardship in many forms from various peoples, with clears signs warning him that this is “NOT YOUR LAND.” He dreams himself back to “safe and happy” memories spent with friends and family, before misfortune arose and food shortages became the norm. Still, Crocodile moves on, and he’s becoming “so, so tired.” Then a community of mice takes him in, and Crocodile slowly integrates into their society, new experiences building fresh, happy memories. All that’s missing is one crucial piece: family. As a refugee narrative, Crocodile’s tale offers young readers a safe, comfortable way to broach a complex subject. In the uncredited translation, the text takes care to delineate Crocodile’s journey such that it stirs compassion, just hinting at horrors left behind. Slegers’ artwork, meanwhile, contributes the most to this narrative, capturing the turmoil and uncertainty of a refugee’s journey in moody blues and shadows. Crocodile’s teeth are prominent, but his demeanor is never ferocious. What’s left unsaid in the text is made explicit in the illustrations, mainly how prejudice pops up all too easily.

A wide-eyed, open-hearted evocation of a refugee’s experience. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-94-788821-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flyaway Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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