A gentle tale of shared similarities rather than differences that divide and a fine read-aloud with a useful but not...

BAT AND THE WAITING GAME

Bat, a biracial, autistic grade schooler with divorced parents, is raising a baby skunk, Thor.

It’s easy to read between the lines and imagine that might not end with a sweet smell. Bat’s older sister, Janie, has just won a leading role in the school musical. Her interactions with friends and preparation for the play weave in and out of Bat’s less-typical experiences as he navigates the complexities of friendship with white classmate Israel, tries to live up to his Chinese-American father’s sometimes-unrealistic expectations, and manages the needs of Thor under the compassionate supervision of his white mom, a veterinarian. She and his teacher both have effective ways of helping Bat when he starts to lose control, and Israel matter-of-factly reminds him when he ought to be more polite. Bat’s differences are there, but they never dominate the story, which focuses on the challenges of getting along with siblings and Bat’s awareness that Thor is growing up and will have to be released eventually. That’s made all the more evident when he tucks the skunk into his shirt and takes him to the play, where the inevitable occurs, emptying the auditorium during Janie’s solo and ending the show under smelly circumstances.

A gentle tale of shared similarities rather than differences that divide and a fine read-aloud with a useful but not didactic message of acceptance. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-244585-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Walden Pond Press/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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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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Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably...

LOST AND FOUND

A lad finds a penguin on his doorstep and resolutely sets out to return it in this briefly told import. 

Eventually, he ends up rowing it all the way back to Antarctica, braving waves and storms, filling in the time by telling it stories. But then, feeling lonely after he drops his silent charge off, he belatedly realizes that it was probably lonely too, and turns back to find it. Seeing Jeffers’s small, distant figures in wide, simply brushed land- and sea-scapes, young viewers will probably cotton to the penguin’s feelings before the boy himself does—but all’s well that ends well, and the reunited companions are last seen adrift together in the wide blue sea. 

Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably with this—slightly—less offbeat friendship tale. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-24503-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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