While Selznick trusts readers to draw their own conclusions about what is true, he offers rich companionship on the voyage.

KALEIDOSCOPE

In his most complex work to date, Selznick examines the unique realities surrounding love and death.

Seeking knowledge of the world on his 13th birthday, the unnamed narrator sets sail with his friend James (both are assumed White). A storm carries them to the Moon, where James brilliantly defends the night and sleep in a battle with the Sun, because “without dreams, everything dies.” He is crowned king, and the protagonist wonders how he will live without him back on Earth. Twenty-three more chapters reveal dreamlike (nonlinear, often phantasmagorical) fragments of the boys’ relationship, before and after separation/death. Each is introduced by an exquisite, graphite illustration that is preceded by a symmetrical, kaleidoscopic version of the scene: These provide foreshadowing, focus, and an aura of spiritual mystery. Settings involving shattered glass or mysterious forest lights like “the entire world had turned into jewels” further the titular provocation. While the deftly constructed chapters could stand alone, the author plants images—biblical, mythological, scientific, Sendak-ian, and even David Bowie–esque—that shift and reappear: The last view of the apple, served by a dragon, leads the protagonist to ponder a (post-Edenic) life with answers but without wonder. Labyrinths, angels, clocks, butterflies, and clasped hands resurface, prompting contemplation of fear, solace, the fluidity of time, the thrill of connection. How do you find/feel love after death? How do you live with grief?

While Selznick trusts readers to draw their own conclusions about what is true, he offers rich companionship on the voyage. (author's note) (Fiction. 11-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-77724-6

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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A deliciously sweet reminder to try one’s unique best.

THE SMART COOKIE

From the Food Group series

This smart cookie wasn’t alwaysa smart cookie.

At the corner of Sweet Street stands a bakery, which a whole range of buns and cakes and treats calls home, including a small cookie who “didn’t feel comfortable speaking up or sharing” any ideas once upon a time. During the early days of gingerbread school, this cookie (with sprinkles on its top half, above its wide eyes and tiny, smiling mouth) never got the best grades, didn’t raise a hand to answer questions, and almost always finished most tests last, despite all best efforts. As a result, the cookie would worry away the nights inside of a cookie jar. Then one day, kind Ms. Biscotti assigns some homework that asks everyone “to create something completely original.” What to do? The cookie’s first attempts (baking, building a birdhouse, sculpting) fail, but an idea strikes soon enough. “A poem!” Titling its opus “My Crumby Days,” the budding cookie poet writes and writes until done. “AHA!” When the time arrives to share the poem with the class, this cookie learns that there’s more than one way to be smart. John and Oswald’s latest installment in the hilarious Food Group series continues to provide plenty of belly laughs (thanks to puns galore!) and mini buns of wisdom in a wholly effervescent package. Oswald’s artwork retains its playful, colorful creative streak. Although slightly less effective than its predecessors due to its rather broad message, this one’s nonetheless an excellent addition to the menu.(This book was reviewed digitally.)

A deliciously sweet reminder to try one’s unique best. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-304540-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Sadly, the storytelling runs aground.

LITTLE RED SLEIGH

A little red sleigh has big Christmas dreams.

Although the detailed, full-color art doesn’t anthropomorphize the protagonist (which readers will likely identify as a sled and not a sleigh), a close third-person text affords the object thoughts and feelings while assigning feminine pronouns. “She longed to become Santa’s big red sleigh,” reads an early line establishing the sleigh’s motivation to leave her Christmas-shop home for the North Pole. Other toys discourage her, but she perseveres despite creeping self-doubt. A train and truck help the sleigh along, and when she wishes she were big, fast, and powerful like them, they offer encouragement and counsel patience. When a storm descends after the sleigh strikes out on her own, an unnamed girl playing in the snow brings her to a group of children who all take turns riding the sleigh down a hill. When the girl brings her home, the sleigh is crestfallen she didn’t reach the North Pole. A convoluted happily-ever-after ending shows a note from Santa that thanks the sleigh for giving children joy and invites her to the North Pole next year. “At last she understood what she was meant to do. She would build her life up spreading joy, one child at a time.” Will she leave the girl’s house to be gifted to other children? Will she stay and somehow also reach ever more children? Readers will be left wondering. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 31.8% of actual size.)

Sadly, the storytelling runs aground. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72822-355-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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