A gentle, mind-expanding, and thoroughly lovely experience.

TRYING

A young visitor to a sculptor’s studio is amazed and impressed as he views the artist at work, asking, “How do you do that?”

The visitor, an older elementary-age kid or maybe a young teen, acknowledges wishing to create something like the art on view, but self-doubt at ever being able to produce such beauty prevents the kid from beginning. What follows is an ongoing, almost Socratic discussion between the visitor and the sculptor. The sculptor exhorts the visitor to try, to make an attempt, and encourages, advises, and pushes his interlocutor to learn from failures and disappointments. As the sculptor does so, he is not loath to shares his own vulnerabilities and haunting thoughts of his mortality. Gradually the visitor becomes a protégé, trying and trying again. As in previous works such as What Do You Do With a Problem? (illustrated by Mae Besom, 2016), Yamada deals with both philosophical and practical questions, maintaining a grounded, direct tone without ever becoming preachy or too highly esoteric. The aspiring artist narrates in the first person from a distance of several years, treasuring the memory of the sculptor’s words, only to be interrupted at the end of the book by a new voice from a new visitor, echoing that first question. Hurst’s black, gray, and white drawings are heavily shaded, imparting a mysterious and ethereal quality. There are fleeting bits of color in the form of an orange studio cat and the sculptor’s green-tinged failures. The characters present White. Young readers and their grown-ups will find much to absorb and discuss.

A gentle, mind-expanding, and thoroughly lovely experience. (Picture book. 7-12)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-970147-28-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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A witty addition to the long-running series.

THE DEEP END

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 15

The Wimpy Kid hits the road.

The Heffley clan has been stuck living together in Gramma’s basement for two months, waiting for the family home to be repaired, and the constant togetherness has been getting on everybody’s nerves. Luckily Greg’s Uncle Gary has a camper waiting for someone to use it, and so the Heffleys set off on the open road looking for an adventurous vacation, hoping the changing scenery will bring a spark back to the family unit. The winding road leads the Heffleys to a sprawling RV park, a setting teeming with possibilities for Greg to get up to his usual shenanigans. Greg’s snarky asides and misadventures continue to entertain. At this point the Wimpy Kid books run like a well-oiled machine, paced perfectly with witty lines, smart gags, and charming cartoons. Kinney knows just where to put a joke, the precise moment to give a character shading, and exactly how to get the narrative rolling, spinning out the oddest plot developments. The appreciation Kinney has for these characters seeps through the novels, endearing the Heffleys to readers even through this title, the 15th installment in a franchise boasting spinoffs, movies, and merchandise. There may come a time when Greg and his family overstay their welcome, but thankfully that day still seems far off.

A witty addition to the long-running series. (Humor. 7-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4868-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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