Sure to feed imaginations.

MY NEW TEACHER AND ME!

A by-the-rules teacher and a tall-tale–telling student don’t see eye to eye on the first day of school in Yankovic’s rhyming salute to the power of the imagination.

Observant readers will notice right away that Mr. Booth is an uptight kind of guy: The rules everywhere are a big clue. Sure enough, the teacher singles out narrator Billy immediately, asking why he is so filthy. The answer? Billy was digging to China and unearthed a dinosaur skull. When Mr. Booth calls him on his bluff, Billy goes on to relate more stories, each more elaborate and far-fetched than the last. But in the end, Mr. Booth gets some proof that maybe Billy isn’t telling such tall tales after all, proof that he hangs on the wall as a reminder. While kids will certainly get into the spirit and fun of the book, Billy gets a bit preachy, though nonetheless inspirational, toward the end: “I’ll bet every great thinker and leader we’ve got / Could see all kinds of things other people could not! / So then why get upset if somebody like me / Tries to look at the world just a bit differently?” The ending is just open-ended enough to make readers wonder about the veracity of Billy’s tales. Hargis’ watercolor, pencil and digital acrylic illustrations are brightly colored and full of tiny details for readers to pore over.  

Sure to feed imaginations. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-219203-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2013

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

HOME

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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