This combination of poetry and art in praise of the familiar, natural world is sweetly, successfully dazzling.

WHEN GREEN BECOMES TOMATOES

POEMS FOR ALL SEASONS

Forty-eight short poems follow the four seasons, beginning and concluding on March 20, a bird singing, “each tweet poking / a tiny hole / through the edge of winter,” as spring comes round again.

Fogliano’s intimate, graceful verse and Morstad’s precise, bright illustrations evoke the ways that weather, water, sky, and growing things change throughout the year. Fogliano catalogs both dramatic and quotidian pleasures and acknowledges the boredom that comes with too much mud, rain, or winter. Each poem is dated, as in a journal; every word, including the pronoun “I,” is lowercase; commas, parentheses, and occasional sets of quotation marks are the only punctuation. These quietly conversational poems include moments of lively energy—wind on a hilltop or the jubilant dizziness of a summer meadow. Morstad’s exquisite gouache-and–pencil-crayon art is well-matched to the delicacy of the poetry. A lovely young girl with straight black hair and brown skin appears alone or with friends throughout; readers may identify her as the voice in many of the poems. Bright flowers lean on slender stalks; in a double-page spread that evokes Time of Wonder, stars wink in the vastness of a late-summer sky. The tiniest points of color draw the eye so that even mud and snow are hardly dreary.

This combination of poetry and art in praise of the familiar, natural world is sweetly, successfully dazzling. (Picture book/poetry. 4-10)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-59643-852-1

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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Haphazard but jolly enough for one outing; it probably won’t last for more.

THE CRAYONS' CHRISTMAS

From the Creative Creature Catcher series

A flurry of mail addressed to Duncan’s crayons ushers in the Christmas season in this novelty spinoff of the bestselling The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) and The Day the Crayons Came Home (2015).

Actual cards and letters are tucked into envelopelike pouches pasted to the pages; these are joined in some cases by other ephemera for a package that is likely to invite sudden, intense play followed by loss and/or damage that will render the book a disappointment to reread. That’s probably OK, as in contrast to the clever story that kicked this small series off, this outing has a hastily composed feel that lacks cohesion. The first letter is addressed to Peach from Mom and includes a paper doll of the “naked” (de-wrappered) crayon along with a selection of tabbed changes of clothing that includes a top hat and tails and a bikini top and bottom. Peach’s implied gender fluidity does not mitigate the unfortunate association of peach with skin color established in the first book. The sense of narrative improvisation is cemented with an early page turn that takes the crayons from outdoors snow play to “Feeling…suddenly very Christmas-y, the crayons headed inside.” Readers can unpack a box of punch-out decorations; a recipe for gluten-free Christmas cookies that begins “go to store and buy gluten-free cookies”; a punch-out dreidel (turns out Grey is Jewish); a board game (“six-sided die” not included); and a map of Esteban (aka Pea Green) and Neon Red’s travels with Santa.

Haphazard but jolly enough for one outing; it probably won’t last for more. (Novelty. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-51574-6

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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A visually striking, compelling recollection.

FROM THE TOPS OF THE TREES

The author recounts a formative childhood experience that continues to inspire her today.

Born to Hmong refugees, Kalia has only ever known the confines of the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand. Even while playing with her cousins, reminders of the hardships of their life are always present. She overhears the aunties sharing their uncertainty and fear of the future. They are a people with no home country and are still trying to find peace. Kalia asks her father why they live behind a gate and wonders what lies beyond the fences that surround the camp. The next day they climb a tall tree, and he shows her the vast expanse around them, from familiar camp landmarks to distant mountains “where the sky meets earth.” This story of resilience and generational hope is told in an expressive, straightforward narrative style. The simplicity of the text adds a level of poignancy that moves readers to reflection. The layered and heavily textured illustrations complement the text while highlighting the humanity of the refugees and providing a quiet dignity to camp life. The militarylike color palette of olive greens, golden yellows, and rich browns reinforces the guarded atmosphere but also represents the transitional period from winter to spring, a time ripe with anticipation and promise.

A visually striking, compelling recollection. (author's note, glossary, map.) (Picture book/memoir. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-8130-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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A feisty manifesto and appealing visual experience for those who find books thrust upon them.

I DON'T WANT TO READ THIS BOOK

After declaring refusal to do so, an unseen narrator reads this book.

The book’s title appears as a Post-it note attached to the cover. With lighthearted, whimsical word-art drawings, hand-lettering, a clipped pace, and a palette dominated by a warm peach tone, the story features a wry and opinionated offstage narrator who provides metatextual commentary about the scorned book at hand. “Let me guess...Words,” says the snarky narrator about what to expect when opening the book. Some words, such as the word doubtwith its useless letter B, are “plain ridiculous.” And then there are unnecessarily large words, such as infinitesimal, which (confoundingly) means “small.” By now, the narrator has reached peak crankiness. The next objects of the narrator’s ire are sentences, described as “too many words all smushed together,” followed by paragraphs (“Just looking at a paragraph exhausts me”) and chapters. (Cue Chapter 2!) The hyperbolic vexation is genuinely funny as medium and message converge. Words, sentences, paragraphs, an entire chapter, and the ending are presented in this anti-reading diatribe, the enddepicted in triumphant, celebratory fireworks. Greenfield’s gentle satire and Lowery’s genuinely entertaining cartoon translation of prose to art might charm even avid readers (who may remember once agreeing with some of the narrator’s sentiments). (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A feisty manifesto and appealing visual experience for those who find books thrust upon them. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-32606-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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