A lovely if uneven offering about a common childhood fear.

THE DARK

Are you afraid of the dark?

Laszlo is. The dark mostly keeps to the basement, but sometimes it hides in the closet or behind the shower curtain. Every morning Laszlo greets the dark when it is safely back in the basement, calling “Hi, dark,” down the staircase. He hopes that this acknowledgement will keep it from coming to him in the night, when a night light illuminates his bedroom as he goes to sleep. He keeps a flashlight at the ready on his pillow, just in case. And one night, the dark does come—presumably the night light has gone out. Laszlo answers the dark’s call to the basement, where he sees a small dresser. “Bottom drawer,” the dark says, and inside he finds light bulbs. The next scene shows his bedroom now illuminated by the returned soft glow of the night light, and Laszlo no longer fears the dark. Klassen’s artwork outshines the text, which, although poetic and begging to be read aloud, falters in its pacing and delivers an anticlimactic (if friendly) resolution to its initially creepy tone. The gouache-and-digital illustrations make the most of the references to light and dark, however, confining the palette to muted tones that contrast satisfyingly with the inky black. Laszlo, though a new creation for this story, somehow seems satisfyingly familiar.

A lovely if uneven offering about a common childhood fear. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: April 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-316-18748-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2013

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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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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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