TELL ME A TATTOO STORY

A father tells his son about the tattoos that mark milestones in his life.

The entire text is composed of the dad’s monologue—“this one’s from my favorite book that my mom used to read to me. / Did she read it to me over and over and over? / She sure did”—but the son’s questions and obvious wonder are more than evident in his eyes and body language. A left-forearm tattoo is a reminder of his father’s wisdom: “Be Kind.” And one of some flowers, a Ferris wheel, and fireworks brings the dad back to the day he met a pretty girl with a wonderful smile. A tattoo on his side commemorates the longest trip he ever took. The turn of the page reveals him as a soldier. And a tiny little heart above his own? That’s just a heart inscribed with “somebody’s birthday,” and it happens to be both father’s and son’s favorite. As the father is telling these stories, the little family is tenderly getting the boy ready for bed. Wheeler’s fine-lined illustrations, done in India ink with dip pens and watercolors, recall picture books of the 1970s in both feel and color (though the father does the dishes while the mother writes in the next room; all three are white). The homey compositions make very plain the love that is behind each tattoo memory, the father following in his parents’ footsteps in being the kind of present and available parent they exemplified.

Love that is skin-deep. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4521-1937-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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As insubstantial as hot air.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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