Enveloping and original, James’ authorial debut offers an honest exploration of a difficult and delicate subject....

THE FUNERAL

A young girl attends a relative’s funeral and experiences familial customs of saying goodbye to a loved one.

Norma’s great-uncle Frank has passed away. While she practices sad faces in the mirror, the girl also feels happy, since she is missing school and will see her favorite cousin, Ray. These contradictory emotions, along with Norma’s innocent questions, perfectly capture a child’s point of view as the funeral procession winds its way to church and the sermon takes place. Beautiful moments mingle together—the smell of her mother’s purse, dust “dancing in beams of light,” the freedom of running outdoors. The illustrations, done in acrylic with ink, pencil, and some collage, skillfully represent the characters both physically and emotionally. As Norma considers what’s expected of her and how she really feels, the artist is also on an exploratory journey, attempting different compositions, uses of paint, and mixed media. Simpler paintings evolve to include: a 3-D sculpture with expressionist marks; a large, expansive field where the children play; and evocative, haikulike, panel illustrations of Norma and Ray outside. (Both children have straight, black hair and pale complexions.) The purpose of the day, to celebrate and remember Uncle Frank, is realized as Norma authentically makes this connection.

Enveloping and original, James’ authorial debut offers an honest exploration of a difficult and delicate subject. Exceptional. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-55498-908-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned.

WHY A DAUGHTER NEEDS A MOM

All the reasons why a daughter needs a mother.

Each spread features an adorable cartoon animal parent-child pair on the recto opposite a rhyming verse: “I’ll always support you in giving your all / in every endeavor, the big and the small, / and be there to catch you in case you should fall. / I hope you believe this is true.” A virtually identical book, Why a Daughter Needs a Dad, publishes simultaneously. Both address standing up for yourself and your values, laughing to ease troubles, being thankful, valuing friendship, persevering and dreaming big, being truthful, thinking through decisions, and being open to differences, among other topics. Though the sentiments/life lessons here and in the companion title are heartfelt and important, there are much better ways to deliver them. These books are likely to go right over children’s heads and developmental levels (especially with the rather advanced vocabulary); their parents are the more likely audience, and for them, the books provide some coaching in what kids need to hear. The two books are largely interchangeable, especially since there are so few references to mom or dad, but one spread in each book reverts to stereotype: Dad balances the two-wheeler, and mom helps with clothing and hair styles. Since the books are separate, it aids in customization for many families.

New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned. (Picture book. 4-8, adult)

Pub Date: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6781-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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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