Alvarez and Field’s remarkable synthesis of word and image here makes for a seamless, powerfully evocative contemplation of...

WHERE DO THEY GO?

Two gifted Vermonters join forces to tackle the mysteries of death head-on.

A timeless question asked by children and adults alike brings together the voluminous talents of novelist, poet, and children’s author Alvarez and renowned woodblock artist Field. In this spare, rhymed poem, “Where do they go?” is the driving query of those left wondering and reckoning with loss “when somebody dies”: “Who can I ask? / Does anyone know? // Do they go where the wind goes / when it blows? // Do they fall with the rain / from the sky? / Are they my tears / when I cry?” Field’s visibly textured prints portray the bereaved here as, mostly, grade school–aged children of different races, allowing readers everywhere to relate. Especially moving are Field’s depictions of the departed in near-featureless blank white or black profile, vividly contrasting with the colorful, animated children longing to fill the absence of the missing loved ones. The text is laid out over and around the illustrations; calming horizontal lines of text and image complement one another on some pages, while on others the text is actively incorporated into the pictures. Without ever venturing an explicit explanation, Alvarez offers many tempting suggestions for those adapting to what remains and posits a wonderfully calming conclusion to a “small puzzle” that can sometimes prove large enough to unmoor those beset by loss of a loved one, especially for the first time.

Alvarez and Field’s remarkable synthesis of word and image here makes for a seamless, powerfully evocative contemplation of grief. (Picture book/poetry. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-60980-670-5

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Triangle Square Books for Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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Exciting artwork paired with disappointingly dull text.

KINDNESS GROWS

Rhyming verses about kindness using a consistent metaphor of widening cracks versus blooming plants are amplified by cutouts on each page.

The art and layout are spectacular, from the cover through the double-page spreads near the end. Racially diverse toddlers are shown engaging in various moods and behaviors, some of which create unhappiness and some of which lead to friendship and happiness. Every page’s color palette and composition perfectly complement the narrative. The initial verso shows two children in aggressive stances, backgrounded by a dark, partly moonlit sky. Between them is a slender, crooked cutout. The large-type text reads: “It all / starts / with a / crack / that we can hardly see. / It happens when we shout / or if we disagree.” The recto shows two children in sunlight, with one offering a pretty leaf to the other, and the rhyme addresses the good that grows from kindness. In this image, the crooked die cut forms the trunk of a tiny sapling. Until the final double-page spreads, the art follows this clever setup: dark deeds and a crack on the left, and good deeds and a growing tree on the right. Unfortunately, the text is far from the equal of the art: It is banal and preachy, and it does not even scan well without some effort on the part of whomever is reading it. Still, the youngest children will solemnly agree with the do’s and don’ts, and they may decide to memorize a page or two.

Exciting artwork paired with disappointingly dull text. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68010-229-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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