Brimming with personality and passion, this protagonist is a joy to know.

THE BRANCH

Introductory scenes present a young pink-skinned girl with a brown pageboy struggling to fall asleep as she tracks the sights and sounds of the ice storm at her window.

A loud crack sends daughter and mother running outside to discover that a beloved branch has splintered off from their tree; she mourns: “It was my castle, my spy base, my ship….” The viewpoint of this endearing child with cropped bangs and expressive body language is effectively reinforced through frequent use of a worm’s-eye perspective and first-person narration. Messier’s descriptions enrich the strong plot. When the protagonist first gazes upon the neighborhood, she imagines it has been “wrapped in a heavy blanket of diamonds.” Unlike her parent, who dismisses the branch’s value, an understanding neighbor sees that it is “full of potential”: “worth keeping.” Mr. Frank allows her to imagine a solution and then helps her realize it. Pratt’s skilled brushwork, which ranges from heavy, black outlines to undefined, hazy views, creates a multitude of effects. The silvery lavender/blue frost of winter contrasts with the warm reds of Frank’s flannel shirt and workshop. Seasons change as they create plans, saw, sand, and varnish. It is a green world that hosts the transformed wood, still capable of supporting a child’s fantasy in its new life as a swing.

Brimming with personality and passion, this protagonist is a joy to know. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-77138-564-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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A cozy story that will transport readers to faraway places.

A GIFT FOR NANA

All gifts are perfect when they come from the heart.

Rabbit goes on a “journey through a green and grand forest” in order to get a gift for his nana even though it is “not even a major hare holiday.” He travels very far in search of the perfect gift and encounters many new friends whom he asks for help. Each of them proffers Rabbit something they can easily make or acquire: The moon offers a “crescent smile,” a whale proposes a glass of water, and so on. Ultimately, Rabbit finds the perfect gift for Nana all on his own, and his nana absolutely adores it. Although the story is a bit predictable, it is amusing—readers will laugh at the anthropomorphic volcano’s explosion and Rabbit’s exhaustion from his journey, among other chucklesome scenes. Smith’s gesso, oil, and cold wax illustrations are exquisite and almost ethereal. The friendly, many-eyed creature referred to as a “stickler” is at once haunting and intriguing. The moon is Tim Burton–esque and seems to glow and pop off the page. Pleased with his choice of gift, Rabbit has the moon’s smile on his face. The predominance of full-bleed double-page spreads accentuates Rabbit’s long quest. The different font sizes, styles, and colors will aid emerging readers with diction when reading aloud but might prove difficult for those with dyslexia. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A cozy story that will transport readers to faraway places. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-43033-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House Studio

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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