A raw, startling portrait of migration.

MIGRANTS

Bear witness to a long, arduous journey across forests and seas for those searching for renewed hope.

The travelers—a group of anthropomorphic animals carrying just the clothes on their backs and what little else possible—stand out against the black background. There’s the unyielding deep green of the ground and the stark trees that line the path ahead. But wait, here comes Death with lively flowers pressed upon its black robe and a giant blue ibis at its side. Together the travelers set off, sharing food and company and camping when fatigue sets in. Once at the coast, everyone climbs aboard the boat, a modest wooden scrap against the turbulent sea. The sea proves itself cruel, obliterating the travelers’ vessel, and those that can swim to shore do so. Not everyone makes it. More fall behind the further the journey goes on, and all along, Death lingers nearby, accompanied by its ibis. It’s a lengthy march disrupted with loss and grief until the migrants finally arrive at a landscape of blossoming shrubbery. Originally released in Mexico and imported via New Zealand, Peruvian creator Watanabe’s depiction of migration and its often harrowing trials shares no words but plenty of images that ask readers to consider. It’s a rare feat: a wordless picture book in which the absence of text intensifies the stories it tells. With its stark dearth of color, seen only where necessary, and evocative imagery, the artist’s pictures make the migrant’s journey—distinct yet everyday—feel palpable. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 96.4% of actual size.)

A raw, startling portrait of migration. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77657-313-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Gecko Press

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Hee haw.

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THE WONKY DONKEY

The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 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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