Worthy and allusive but with a possibly frustratingly oblique ending.

CIRCLE

From the Shape Trilogy series

Circle, Square, and Triangle play a game together with surprising results.

The three shapes are friends. Illustrator Klassen’s watercolor, graphite, and digitally created illustrations are evocative in their muted palette and spare presentation, the shapes drawn simply, with white, rounded-off oblongs for eyes whose black pupils move back and forth to show action and emotion. One day, Circle suggests a game of hide-and-seek and tells her friends not to hide behind the waterfall, because it is dark. When Circle finishes counting, Square has not moved; he tells Circle, “Triangle went behind the waterfall.” Circle goes to find him, and as she delves deeper, the double-page spreads darken to solid black until only Circle’s white oblong eyes are shown. She sees one set of eyes and begins to upbraid Triangle—and then a third set. Turns out that is the set that belongs to Triangle, and when the two realize they don’t know the other, they rush away in a fright. Safely back in the open, Circle wonders what shape was in the dark and, reflecting on her fear, realizes that the shape wasn’t necessarily “bad” just because she couldn’t see it. While the implied message of the story is a vital one in this xenophobic age and its subtle delivery and imagery encourage further exploration, the story’s final page veers off, asking readers to picture a shape rather than delivering a conclusion.

Worthy and allusive but with a possibly frustratingly oblique ending. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9608-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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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 dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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