Fun and feisty—these memorable characters are a delight to know and revisit.

GRANDPARENTS

In a refreshing departure from the norm, this Spanish import focuses on the grandparents’ relationship with each other, not with a child protagonist.

Balding Manuel is working in the garden when a passing car announces a dance with the “best musicians in the country.” A call and response between the elders ensues after Manuela insists she is not going—but starts attending to her appearance anyway. Each time Grandfather inquires about her preparations, she bemoans her looks: “I’m going to put mascara on my eyelashes. They are as stubby as a little fly’s feet.” He counters her, asserting that they are like “new-mown grass.” Manuel’s loving if not always romantic similes build cumulatively, inviting reader participation. Wobbly ink outlines suggest a tender fragility to these characters; light gray backgrounds create their skin tones. Color and humor abound in these compositions due to the playfulness of the onlooking farm creatures and the hilarious visual interpretations of the snappy narrative. Looking in the mirror, Manuela thinks she is “as ugly as a chicken with no feathers”; an inverted image depicts just that. The design is varied and sophisticated yet caters to a child’s naïve sensibilities, as when a tree grows horizontally out of the field. Ultimately, the only change to Grandmother’s appearance is Grandfather’s flower behind her ear; the two dance and flirt in the moonlight as intimate scenes from their past surround them.

Fun and feisty—these memorable characters are a delight to know and revisit. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77164-566-9

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Aldana Libros/Greystone Kids

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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