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 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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An expertly crafted, soulful, and humorous work that tenderly explores identity, culture, and the bond between father and...

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THUNDER BOY JR.

Thunder Boy Smith Jr. hates his name.

The Native American boy is named after his father, whose nickname is Big Thunder. Thunder Boy Jr. says his nickname, Little Thunder, makes him "sound like a burp or a fart." Little Thunder loves his dad, but he longs for a name that celebrates something special about him alone. He muses, “I love playing in the dirt, so maybe my name should be Mud in His Ears.…I love powwow dancing. I’m a grass dancer. So maybe my name should be Drums, Drums, and More Drums!” Little Thunder wonders how he can express these feelings to his towering father. However, he need not worry. Big Thunder knows that the time has come for his son to receive a new name, one as vibrant as his blossoming personality. Morales’ animated mixed-media illustrations, reminiscent of her Pura Belpré Award–winning work in Niño Wrestles the World (2013), masterfully use color and perspective to help readers see the world from Little Thunder’s point of view. His admiration of his dad is manifest in depictions of Big Thunder as a gentle giant of a man. The otherwise-muted palette bursts with color as Thunder Boy Jr. proudly enumerates the unique qualities and experiences that could inspire his new name.

An expertly crafted, soulful, and humorous work that tenderly explores identity, culture, and the bond between father and son. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 10, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-316-01372-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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