A slight story coupled with puzzling illustrations, this doesn’t quite hit the mark.

ALMOND

Sometimes it takes meeting someone new to help us learn what we can really achieve.

Almond, a young pale-skinned girl with dark hair, encounters another, similarly complexioned young girl at school. The New Girl can play violin beautifully, evoking visions for Almond as she listens. Almond, though, is facing anxiety about being in a play and having to read lines; she is convinced that she has no talent. Her insecurities lead her to feel inferior to the New Girl and thus diminish her own abilities, though Almond’s mother assures her that she will find her way. It takes an encouraging teacher, a unique moment during the play, some crows, and, perhaps, a bit of the supernatural for Almond to discover her true talent. The story’s themes—self-confidence, believing in oneself—are universal and should resonate with young readers, yet the characters feel overly specific. The New Girl’s sudden appearance in and then disappearance from Almond's life opens up multiple interpretations that young readers may find hard to pin down. The narrative seems to jump in places, lacking smooth transitions to carry young readers through Almond’s inner, and outer, journey. Say’s unusual approach here mixes realistic photographs with often blurry charcoal and pastel techniques, leading to slightly unsettling translucency in places, with repetitive vignettes of Almond’s not-always-expressive face and enigmatic views of windows and hallways.

A slight story coupled with puzzling illustrations, this doesn’t quite hit the mark. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-30037-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow...

THE BOOK HOG

A porcine hoarder of books learns to read—and to share.

The Book Hog’s obsession is clear from the start. Short declarative sentences describe his enthusiasm (“The Book Hog loved books”), catalog the things he likes about the printed page, and eventually reveal his embarrassing secret (“He didn’t know how to read”). While the text is straightforward, plenty of amusing visual details will entertain young listeners. A picture of the Book Hog thumbing through a book while seated on the toilet should induce some giggles. The allusive name of a local bookshop (“Wilbur’s”) as well as the covers of a variety of familiar and much-loved books (including some of the author’s own) offer plenty to pore over. And the fact that the titles become legible only after our hero learns to read is a particularly nice touch. A combination of vignettes, single-page illustrations and double-page spreads that feature Pizzoli’s characteristic style—heavy black outlines, a limited palette of mostly salmon and mint green, and simple shapes—move the plot along briskly. Librarians will appreciate the positive portrayal of Miss Olive, an elephant who welcomes the Book Hog warmly to storytime, though it’s unlikely most will be able to match her superlative level of service.

There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow bibliophiles, and the author’s fans will enjoy making another anthropomorphic animal friend. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-03689-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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A cozy story that will transport readers to faraway places.

A GIFT FOR NANA

All gifts are perfect when they come from the heart.

Rabbit goes on a “journey through a green and grand forest” in order to get a gift for his nana even though it is “not even a major hare holiday.” He travels very far in search of the perfect gift and encounters many new friends whom he asks for help. Each of them proffers Rabbit something they can easily make or acquire: The moon offers a “crescent smile,” a whale proposes a glass of water, and so on. Ultimately, Rabbit finds the perfect gift for Nana all on his own, and his nana absolutely adores it. Although the story is a bit predictable, it is amusing—readers will laugh at the anthropomorphic volcano’s explosion and Rabbit’s exhaustion from his journey, among other chucklesome scenes. Smith’s gesso, oil, and cold wax illustrations are exquisite and almost ethereal. The friendly, many-eyed creature referred to as a “stickler” is at once haunting and intriguing. The moon is Tim Burton–esque and seems to glow and pop off the page. Pleased with his choice of gift, Rabbit has the moon’s smile on his face. The predominance of full-bleed double-page spreads accentuates Rabbit’s long quest. The different font sizes, styles, and colors will aid emerging readers with diction when reading aloud but might prove difficult for those with dyslexia. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A cozy story that will transport readers to faraway places. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-43033-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House Studio

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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