Bracketed by beautiful endpapers, this ode to everyday beauty sings sweetly.

SIDEWALK FLOWERS

A child in a red hoodie and a man on a cellphone navigate an urban landscape, the child picking flowers from cracks and crannies along the way.

Best known for his nonsense verse, Lawson here provides a poignant, wordless storyline, interpreted by Smith in sequential panels. The opening spread presents the child and (probably) dad walking in a gray urban neighborhood. The child’s hoodie is the only spot of color against the gray wash—except for the dandelions growing next to a sidewalk tree, begging to be picked. The rest of their walk proceeds in similar fashion, occasional hints of color (a fruit stand, glass bottles in a window) joining the child and the flowers she (judging by the haircut) plucks from cracks in the concrete. Smith’s control of both color and perspective is superb, supporting a beautifully nuanced emotional tone. Though the streets are gray, they are not hostile, and though dad is on the cellphone, he also holds the child’s hand and never exhibits impatience as she stops. Once the child has collected a bouquet, she shares it, placing a few flowers on a dead bird, next to a man sleeping on a bench, in a friendly dog’s collar. As child and dad draw closer to home, color spreads across the pages; there is no narrative climax beyond readers’ sharing of the child’s quiet sense of wonder.

Bracketed by beautiful endpapers, this ode to everyday beauty sings sweetly. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-55498-431-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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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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A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.

ROBOBABY

Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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