The book reaches for inspiring but stalls out at bland

IT TAKES A VILLAGE

Although it shares a title with Clinton’s 1996 work calling for a social commitment to children’s welfare, this picture book offers just 16 sentences spread over 40 pages illustrated with Frazee’s customarily humanistic detail.

The sentences don’t begin to attempt a narrative, amounting to little more than a sequence of platitudes: “Sometimes it takes a child // to make a village. // We all have a place in the village, a job to do, / and a lot to learn. // Kids don’t come with instructions. / But neither do grown-ups!” The illustrations, however, do provide a visual storyline, starting with three kids—one black, one Asian, and one white—who look up at a bare tree, then talk to their grown-ups, who talk to more people, leading to the community’s coming together to build an elaborate play structure beneath what turns out to be a cherry tree. In choosing this particular, child-friendly narrative, the illustrations miss opportunities. The lines “Every family needs help sometimes. Kindness and caring / and sharing matter” are illustrated with pictures of children sharing out snacks for the work crew rather than images of meaningful sharing across class divides, for instance. Frazee's cast shows her characteristically ebullient attention to inclusivity: a diversity of ages, races, and family constellations can be discerned, and one character uses a wheelchair. However, readers looking for ethnic or faith-based attire will find none.

The book reaches for inspiring but stalls out at bland . (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3087-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life.

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BE YOU!

An inspirational picture book offers life advice for readers who want to be themselves.

Replete with sparkling, often quirky illustrations of children living their best lives, this book is a gorgeous guidebook for those seeking encouragement while encountering life’s challenges. The children featured—a racially diverse group ranging from infants to preschoolers—cheerfully navigate the various injunctions that flow through the text: “Be curious.…Be adventurous.…Be persistent.…Be kind.” What is remarkable about the book is that even though the instructions and the brief sentences explaining them are at times vague, the illustrations expand on them in ways readers will find endearing and uplifting. Those depicting painful or challenging moments are especially effective. The “Be persistent” double-page spread shows a child in a boat on stormy seas; it’s rich with deep blues as it emphasizes the energy of wind and rain and struggle in the face of challenge. Together with the accompanying repeated phrase “Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop,” this spread arrests readers. By contrast, the “Be kind. Be understanding” spread simply presents two children’s faces, one cast in blue and the other in gold, but the empathy that Reynolds conveys is similarly captivating. While there is no plot to pull readers through the pages, the book provides rich fodder for caregivers to use as teachable moments, both informally and in classroom settings.

Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-57231-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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