A splendid tribute to the world and its splendors, with something to offer audiences of a broad range of ages.

LIFE

Readers are invited to reflect on life with the help of animals.

Addressing readers directly, the narrator opens with a modest statement: “Life begins small.” See an elephant grow bigger as it walks underneath the fierce sun and gentle moon, through days and nights. Life, it seems, also promises change—and wonders. A hawk soars in the sky, while elsewhere, a camel stands tall in a desert. Sitting on a rock, a turtle relishes the “rain on its back.” Each glimpse of an animal in the natural world elicits a small jolt of joy thanks in part to Caldecott honoree Wenzel’s exquisite illustrations, which render these moments with low-key precision. On one page, dark and soft blues bathe an adult elephant and its smaller companion, both gray beacons in a picture of a nighttime march. On another page, a snake blends in with the smeared greens, yellowed brown, and hints of reds that make up the grass. But even with all these merry images, moments of bleakness can follow. The narrator proposes another fact: “Life is not always easy.” A small bird flies alone and vulnerable through a storm, seeming lost before it finally breaks through. Thankfully, Rylant keeps the narratorial voice direct and brief during scenes serene or frightful. Flashes of levity in the illustrations and text (think “grassssssssssss”) serve to underscore the creators’ trust in readers.

A splendid tribute to the world and its splendors, with something to offer audiences of a broad range of ages. (Picture book. 4-adult)

Pub Date: June 27, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5162-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

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THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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Empathetic art and lyrical text blend for a touching and empowering tale.

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AARON SLATER, ILLUSTRATOR

From the Questioneers series

The latest book in the Questioneer series centers an African American boy who has dyslexia.

Roberts’ characteristic cartoon illustrations open on a family of six that includes two mothers of color, children of various abilities and racial presentations, and two very amused cats. In a style more expressive and stirring than other books in the series, Beaty presents a boy overcoming insecurities related to reading comprehension. Like Harlem Renaissance artist Aaron Douglas, the boy’s namesake, the protagonist loves to draw. More than drawing, however, young Aaron wishes to write, but when he tries to read, the letters appear scrambled (effectively illustrated with a string of wobbly, often backward letters that trail across the pages). The child retreats into drawing. After an entire school year of struggle, Aaron decides to just “blend in.” At the beginning of the next school year, a writing prompt from a new teacher inspires Aaron, who spends his evening attempting to write “a story. Write something true.” The next day in class, having failed to put words on paper, Aaron finds his voice and launches into a story that shows how “beauty and kindness and loving and art / lend courage to all with a welcoming heart.” In the illustration, a tableau of colorful mythological beings embodies Aaron’s tale. The text is set in a dyslexia-friendly type. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Empathetic art and lyrical text blend for a touching and empowering tale. (author's note, illustrator's note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5396-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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