ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE GARDEN

A young child copes with the fallout of her broken family in Buitrago and Yockteng’s (Walk with Me, 2017) latest collaboration.

Isabel and her father drive to the country. She hardly pays attention to his words on the way over. Dropped off at her grandmother’s house, she watches him leave. She observes her room that’s not her room. At night, Isabel lies in bed and remembers her dad and the city, when she notices an owl, a frog, and a mouse staring at her through the window. In such a case, “all you can do is open it and talk to them.” Buitrago’s translated text hides complexity beneath its directness, which is traced with humor and charm. Together the girl and creatures take a nighttime stroll. She feels the cool grass against her feet, while the owl names the flowers and the frog calls out the stars. The mouse just wants to eat. Slowly, Isabel opens up about her family, her absent mother and now her father, and the grandmother she barely knows. It’s a story in fragments. Yockteng’s textured digital pictures start as moody snapshots in dark blue ink with occasional flecks of color, mirroring the girl’s inner turmoil. More color creeps in as morning comes and the story nears its poignant finale. Grandmother, pale-skinned as her granddaughter and clad in work boots and jeans, waits by the door, ready to embrace Isabel. Her reassurances (“This is your house, too”) say it all.

Simply outstanding. (appendix) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-55498-983-6

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught...

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A PROBLEM?

A child struggles with the worry and anxiety that come with an unexpected problem.

In a wonderful balance of text and pictures, the team responsible for What Do You Do With an Idea (2014) returns with another book inspiring children to feel good about themselves. A child frets about a problem that won’t go away: “I wished it would just disappear. I tried everything I could to hide from it. I even found ways to disguise myself. But it still found me.” The spare, direct narrative is accompanied by soft gray illustrations in pencil and watercolor. The sepia-toned figure of the child is set apart from the background and surrounded by lots of white space, visually isolating the problem, which is depicted as a purple storm cloud looming overhead. Color is added bit by bit as the storm cloud grows and its color becomes more saturated. With a backpack and umbrella, the child tries to escape the problem while the storm swirls, awash with compass points scattered across the pages. The pages brighten into splashes of yellow as the child decides to tackle the problem head-on and finds that it holds promise for unlooked-for opportunity.

A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught situations, this belongs on the shelf alongside Molly Bang’s Sophie books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943-20000-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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An expertly crafted, soulful, and humorous work that tenderly explores identity, culture, and the bond between father and...

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THUNDER BOY JR.

Thunder Boy Smith Jr. hates his name.

The Native American boy is named after his father, whose nickname is Big Thunder. Thunder Boy Jr. says his nickname, Little Thunder, makes him "sound like a burp or a fart." Little Thunder loves his dad, but he longs for a name that celebrates something special about him alone. He muses, “I love playing in the dirt, so maybe my name should be Mud in His Ears.…I love powwow dancing. I’m a grass dancer. So maybe my name should be Drums, Drums, and More Drums!” Little Thunder wonders how he can express these feelings to his towering father. However, he need not worry. Big Thunder knows that the time has come for his son to receive a new name, one as vibrant as his blossoming personality. Morales’ animated mixed-media illustrations, reminiscent of her Pura Belpré Award–winning work in Niño Wrestles the World (2013), masterfully use color and perspective to help readers see the world from Little Thunder’s point of view. His admiration of his dad is manifest in depictions of Big Thunder as a gentle giant of a man. The otherwise-muted palette bursts with color as Thunder Boy Jr. proudly enumerates the unique qualities and experiences that could inspire his new name.

An expertly crafted, soulful, and humorous work that tenderly explores identity, culture, and the bond between father and son. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-01372-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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