New readers will be eager to follow such unconventional instructions, and experienced readers will recognize every single...

HOW TO READ A BOOK

A linguistic and visual feast awaits in Alexander and Sweet’s debut collaboration.

If the mechanics of deciphering words on a page is a well-covered topic, the orchestration of finding magic between pages is an art emphasized but unexplained…until now. First things are first: “find a tree—a black tupelo or dawn redwood will do—and plant yourself.” Once settled, take the book in hand and “dig your thumb at the bottom of each juicy section and pop the words out…[then] // Squeeze every morsel of each plump line until the last drop of magic / drips from the infinite sky.” Reading, captured here in both content and form, is hailed as the unassailably individual, creative act it is. The prosody and rhythm and multimodal sensuousness of Alexander’s poetic text is made playfully material in Sweet’s mixed-media collage-and-watercolor illustrations. Not only does the book explain how to read, but it also demonstrates the elegant and emotive chaos awaiting readers in an intricate partnership of text and image. Despite the engaging physicality of gatefolds and almost three-dimensional spreads, readers with lower contrast sensitivity or readers less experienced at differentiating shapes and letters may initially find some of the more complex collage spreads difficult to parse. Children depicted are typically kraft-paper brown.

New readers will be eager to follow such unconventional instructions, and experienced readers will recognize every single step . (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-230781-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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A quirky, fun story that will appeal to young audiences looking for a little bit of scare, with a premise so good it...

FEAR THE BUNNY

A tiger can’t believe it’s being upstaged in this picture-book riff on William Blake’s famous poem.

A group of zoologically diverse animals huddle around a fire, listening to a porcupine read from a chilling poem: “Bunnies, bunnies, burning bright, / in the forests of the night—.” An incredulous tiger interrupts, saying that the poem is actually about it. But a squirrel matter-of-factly states that “Here, it’s ‘bunnies, bunnies.’ ” The tiger still doesn’t understand why the animals would be so afraid of bunnies but not afraid of tigers and tries to explain why it, an apex predator, is far more threatening. The smaller animals remain unimpressed, calmly telling the tiger that “In this forest, we fear the bunny” and that it should “Hide now, before it’s too late.” An amusing and well-done premise slightly disappoints at the climax, with the tiger streaking away in terror before a horde of headlamp-wearing bunnies, but eager readers never learn what, exactly, the bunnies would do if they caught up. But at the end, a group of tigers joins the other animals in their awestruck reading of the adapted Blake poem, included in full at the end. Cute, fuzzy illustrations contrast nicely with the dark tone and forest background.

A quirky, fun story that will appeal to young audiences looking for a little bit of scare, with a premise so good it overcomes a weak conclusion. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7800-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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  • SPONSORED PLACEMENT

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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For places where the first-grade shelves are particularly thin.

ON THE FIRST DAY OF FIRST GRADE

The traditional song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” gets a school makeover as readers follow a cheery narrator through the first 12 days of first grade.

“On the first day of first grade / I had fun right away // laughing and learning all day!” In these first two spreads, Jennings shows the child, who has brown skin and a cloud of dark-brown hair, entering the schoolyard with a diverse array of classmates and settling in. In the backgrounds, caregivers, including a woman in hijab, stand at the fence and kids hang things on hooks in the back of the room. Each new day sees the child and their friends enjoying new things, previous days’ activities repeated in the verses each time so that those listening will soon be chiming in. The child helps in the classroom, checks out books from the library, plants seeds, practices telling time and counting money, leads the line, performs in a play, shows off a picture of their pet bunny, and does activities in gym, music, and art classes. The Photoshop-and-watercolor illustrations portray adorable and engaged kids having fun while learning with friends. But while the song and topic are the same, this doesn’t come close to touching either the hysterical visuals or great rhythm of Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003).

For places where the first-grade shelves are particularly thin. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266851-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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