INTO THE SNOW

A child narrates a day spent playing in the snow in this collaboration between a Japanese-American author and Japanese illustrator.

From the very first sentence—“It’s snowing!”—Kaneko nails the unbridled excitement of a preschooler who wakes up to snowfall. Saito captures the child from the rear, his smudgy illustration offering readers a view dominated by one spectacular case of bed head, hair spiking every which way in a visual reinforcement of the child’s glee. Per Mommy’s instruction (“bundle up and have fun”), the child plunges into the snow with a yellow plastic sled. Each declarative sentence encapsulates the child’s simple, unfeigned wonder: “The snow is light and fluffy”; “Look! I’ve found an icicle.” The child weathers an unexpected spin on the sled but proclaims, “I’m all right.” The wind picks up; the child goes back inside for a cup of hot chocolate with Mommy. Working with oil pastels, gouache, acrylics, and colored pencil, Saito creates tableaux characterized by thick, soft lines, comfortably rounded shapes, and warm colors—there’s hardly a hint of black or gray, and soft blobs of pink suggest cherry blossoms, further sweetening the mood. This child is not Peter on an urban odyssey; the adventure appears to take place entirely within the confines of the child’s backyard. Though Mommy is nearby, she gives the child, who has recognizably East Asian features, space for delicious independence.

Thrillingly cozy. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59270-188-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Aspirational—but not quite ascending to the inspirational.

MY VOICE IS A TRUMPET

Explores different ways one’s voice can be used.

The unidentified narrator begins by chronicling different types of voices: “loud and proud,” “soft and sweet,” “patient and wise,” and more. The Deaf community is included in both text and art, and sign language is alluded to: “There’s a voice that is silent / but STILL CAN BE HEARD / with hands that move / to speak EVERY word.” The vibrant, colorful art presents an array of children of different races and skin tones. Unfortunately, this well-meaning book does not cohere. The art in some spreads does not appear to augment or even connect to the text. For example, the lines “I’LL SAY NO TO HATE / by using this voice / and ALWAYS CHOOSE LOVE— / a magical choice” are illustrated with a spread of four children: one playing the trumpet, another singing, one with a drum major’s hat and baton, and the final child skateboarding. Readers may be confused by how these images apply to the text since they have no direct relation to saying no to hate or choosing love. Spreads with children holding protest signs feel disconnected to the present moment with no Black Lives Matter or BLM–related signs depicted. Some text excludes nonbinary children, asserting “we’re SISTERS / and BROTHERS.”

Aspirational—but not quite ascending to the inspirational. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: July 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-35218-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Exciting artwork paired with disappointingly dull text.

KINDNESS GROWS

Rhyming verses about kindness using a consistent metaphor of widening cracks versus blooming plants are amplified by cutouts on each page.

The art and layout are spectacular, from the cover through the double-page spreads near the end. Racially diverse toddlers are shown engaging in various moods and behaviors, some of which create unhappiness and some of which lead to friendship and happiness. Every page’s color palette and composition perfectly complement the narrative. The initial verso shows two children in aggressive stances, backgrounded by a dark, partly moonlit sky. Between them is a slender, crooked cutout. The large-type text reads: “It all / starts / with a / crack / that we can hardly see. / It happens when we shout / or if we disagree.” The recto shows two children in sunlight, with one offering a pretty leaf to the other, and the rhyme addresses the good that grows from kindness. In this image, the crooked die cut forms the trunk of a tiny sapling. Until the final double-page spreads, the art follows this clever setup: dark deeds and a crack on the left, and good deeds and a growing tree on the right. Unfortunately, the text is far from the equal of the art: It is banal and preachy, and it does not even scan well without some effort on the part of whomever is reading it. Still, the youngest children will solemnly agree with the do’s and don’ts, and they may decide to memorize a page or two.

Exciting artwork paired with disappointingly dull text. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68010-229-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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