QUILL SOUP

A STONE SOUP STORY

From South African, an animal retelling of the “Stone Soup” folktale.

The stranger in this version is Noko, a porcupine. Having traveled without food “through the Valley of a Thousand Hills,” he arrives in a village hungry. When the villagers refuse him food, he creates a “thick and rich” soup with nothing but hot water and three of his own quills—and, of course, all the other ingredients that the villagers contribute. Impressed by Noko’s claim to have fed this soup to the king, they fork over carrots, mealies, beans, spinach, and more. The king, not present but imagined, is a lion; the villagers are Meerkat, Warthog, Rabbit, and bunches of others. The setting, called a village, is both bustling and ambiguous—an amalgam of village, forest, and jungle. The scenes are intensely crowded and bursting with energy; both animals and backgrounds are styled in two dimensions, so everything overlaps on one plane. These animals aren’t living in a specific static location so much as a world of bright red, yellow, blue, green, black, and white shapes and patterns. Occasionally an element seems industrial, such as small rounded rooms connected by ladders and tunnels that evoke factory pipes, but it’s not definite. Flap copy says that illustrator Blankenaar took inspiration from African sources ranging from broad to specific: “Tanzanian artwork, the wood sculpture of Western Africa, and the costumes and masks of the Bwa people of Burkina Faso.”

Visually dynamic. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62354-147-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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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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Sweet and affirming.

STRICTLY NO ELEPHANTS

After a little boy and his tiny elephant are barred from the Pet Club, they befriend other children with unusual pets.

The first-person narrative has a quiet, contemplative feel: “The trouble with having a tiny elephant for a pet is that you never quite fit in. / No one else has an elephant.” His pet is shy of sidewalk cracks: “I always go back and help him over. That’s what friends do: lift each other over the cracks.” Embodying dejection after the two turn from that large, titular sign on the door, a double-page spread—a Photoshop-augmented linoleum block print—depicts a dark teal cityscape slashed with raindrops and bobbing with black umbrellas. The Caucasian boy, his pet (in matching red scarves), and a little African-American girl in cornrows and a red-and-orange striped dress are the bright spots in this poignant tableau. Turns out that this girl—a pet skunk curled on her lap—has been turned away too. “He doesn’t stink,” she says. “No, he doesn’t,” concurs the boy and then suggests, “What if we start our own club?” Observant children will spot a porcupine, penguin, and giraffe peering from brownstone windows along the way; they and their children join others with equally exotic pets. Yoo’s concluding scenes depict a treehouse occupation (its restrictive message changed to “ALL ARE WELCOME”) and multiethnic, multispecies harmony.

Sweet and affirming. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4814-1647-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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