Readers will find both consolation and encouragement on every visit to this emotionally resonant, evocative story.

THE UNCORKER OF OCEAN BOTTLES

A man who delivers messages sent via ocean bottle longs for a message of his own.

With his pale skin and expressive eyebrows, the otherwise nameless Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, a white man who could be any age from young adult to elderly, is the very picture of quiet, determined, and lonely. How he came by his job isn’t told, but it is clear he takes it seriously, understanding the importance of the communications he brings. Cuevas’ poetic language plays with meter and words, as when he contemplates the improbability of receiving a message of his own: “But he still would have liked it just the same.” Stead’s illustrations in woodblock, oil pastels, and pencil seem to enfold her subject. His cat comes along on some of his missions, while various birds of sea and shore appear along his way like guiding spirits in the sun or rain or snow. When a message—an invitation to a party at the seashore—arrives with no definite sender or recipient, the Uncorker shares it with several people—and then goes himself. The people of the town, dark- and white-skinned neighbors gathered on the beach, suggest a community that perhaps already knows and certainly embraces him.

Readers will find both consolation and encouragement on every visit to this emotionally resonant, evocative story. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3868-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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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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