Chronicling the importance of empathy and openness, this fourth in the Carver Chronicles is a pleasing addition to a series...

TROUBLE NEXT DOOR

From the Carver Chronicles series , Vol. 4

Young Calvin Vickers must come to terms with an all-too-familiar new neighbor, the biggest bully at Carver Elementary.

Could Harper Hall just be a good kid with a troubled past? Calvin doesn’t want to be anywhere close to find out. “Big for his age” Harper Hall is someone “you don’t cross,” someone “you don’t say no [to] if he asks for one of your three Oreos,” someone who looks like “he just might pound someone into the ground.” How can Calvin focus on the school science fair when his world has just been rendered a shambles? What seems to be an impossible relationship is given hope when Calvin is offered an entry into Harper’s inner life; he learns that Harper’s mother struggles with housing insecurity and finding steady income, forcing Harper into foster care. The irony is that the cigarette-smoking, coldhearted foster grandmother who cares for Harper is not as well-equipped for the job as his troubled but loving mother. The reductive, negative-trope–supporting foster mother makes for a slight disappointment in an early chapter book that otherwise handles complexity with warmth. Harper, Calvin, and Calvin’s pals are depicted as black in Freeman’s soft, black-and-white illustrations, and Carver is a welcoming, multicultural place.

Chronicling the importance of empathy and openness, this fourth in the Carver Chronicles is a pleasing addition to a series in which diverse readers can recognize themselves in starring roles. (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-80127-1

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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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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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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