A mixed bag, to be sure, but for those children living near these island oases, there is much that will seem familiar.

WAKE UP, ISLAND

Casanova turns in something different with this lyrical look at an island’s start to a brand new day.

There is no plot, just a series of island vignettes that are sometimes beautiful in their simplicity, the typesetting of the words on the pages at times echoing their meanings: “Pine trees s t r e t c h / their limbs and branches.” Precise words introduce nature vocabulary to little listeners—dangle, plunge, gargle, shimmy—and paint word pictures: “Heron swoops, / a two-stilt statue.” And the island is filled with the flora and fauna of the north woods: deer, moose, spider, loon, mallards, bees. Greens, blues, and browns dominate Wroblewski’s woodcuts. The ravens and chickadees are so close to realistic they might fly away, the heron’s feathers are gorgeously detailed, and the bear and red squirrel scenes might be artwork on a wall. Other times, though, the illustrations are a miss—the opening spread of water and sky is unrealistic to the point of being abstract, and the closing picture uses the same sky. The addition of “you,” a blond, white child who wakes up, eats breakfast, and rushes out to explore the world, can be seen as intruding on the natural scene, and Wroblewski’s close-up of this child is wooden and almost ugly.

A mixed bag, to be sure, but for those children living near these island oases, there is much that will seem familiar. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8166-8935-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow...

THE BOOK HOG

A porcine hoarder of books learns to read—and to share.

The Book Hog’s obsession is clear from the start. Short declarative sentences describe his enthusiasm (“The Book Hog loved books”), catalog the things he likes about the printed page, and eventually reveal his embarrassing secret (“He didn’t know how to read”). While the text is straightforward, plenty of amusing visual details will entertain young listeners. A picture of the Book Hog thumbing through a book while seated on the toilet should induce some giggles. The allusive name of a local bookshop (“Wilbur’s”) as well as the covers of a variety of familiar and much-loved books (including some of the author’s own) offer plenty to pore over. And the fact that the titles become legible only after our hero learns to read is a particularly nice touch. A combination of vignettes, single-page illustrations and double-page spreads that feature Pizzoli’s characteristic style—heavy black outlines, a limited palette of mostly salmon and mint green, and simple shapes—move the plot along briskly. Librarians will appreciate the positive portrayal of Miss Olive, an elephant who welcomes the Book Hog warmly to storytime, though it’s unlikely most will be able to match her superlative level of service.

There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow bibliophiles, and the author’s fans will enjoy making another anthropomorphic animal friend. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-03689-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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A solid, small step for diversifying STEM stories.

ASTRONAUT ANNIE

What does Annie want to be?

As career day approaches, Annie wants to keep her job choice secret until her family sees her presentation at school. Readers will figure it out, however, through the title and clues Tadgell incorporates into the illustrations. Family members make guesses about her ambitions that are tied to their own passions, although her brother watches as she completes her costume in a bedroom with a Mae Jemison poster, starry décor, and a telescope. There’s a celebratory mood at the culminating presentation, where Annie says she wants to “soar high through the air” like her basketball-playing mother, “explore faraway places” like her hiker dad, and “be brave and bold” like her baker grandmother (this feels forced, but oven mitts are part of her astronaut costume) so “the whole world will hear my exciting stories” like her reporter grandfather. Annie jumps off a chair to “BLAST OFF” in a small illustration superimposed on a larger picture depicting her floating in space with a reddish ground below. It’s unclear if Annie imagines this scene or if it’s her future-self exploring Mars, but either scenario fits the aspirational story. Backmatter provides further reading suggestions and information about the moon and four women astronauts, one of whom is Jemison. Annie and her family are all black.

A solid, small step for diversifying STEM stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-88448-523-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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