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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Inspiring, if all these pinkie promises don’t get in the way.

PINKIE PROMISES

Lately, everyone seems intent on telling Polly what girls can’t do.

Whether it’s fixing a leak, building a model drawbridge, or washing a car, it seems like the world thinks that girls aren’t able to do anything. Polly is discouraged until she goes to a political rally with her mother. There, the two meet a White woman named Elizabeth (recognizably author Warren in Chua’s friendly illustrations) who’s running for president. She tells Polly that she is running because that’s what girls do: They lead. Polly and Elizabeth make a pinky promise to remember this truth. Polly decides that being a girl can’t prevent her from doing whatever she wants. Even though she’s a bit intimidated at attending a brand-new school, Polly decides to be brave—because that’s what girls do, and she makes a pinkie promise with her mom. At soccer, she’s under pressure to score the winning goal. She makes a pinkie promise with her coach to do her best, because that’s what girls do. And so on. By the end of the book, Polly ignores what she’s been told that girls can’t do and totally focuses on what they can do: absolutely anything they want. In the illustrations, Polly and her family have dark skin and straight, dark hair. The narrative is inspiring and child friendly, although the constant return to making pinkie promises feels like a distraction from the central message. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Inspiring, if all these pinkie promises don’t get in the way. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-80102-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Godwin Books/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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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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