It’s a successful visual metaphor but lacking in some practical application of text.

MY BIG BAD MONSTER

A little girl deals with an annoying manifestation of overwhelming negative thoughts.

When the monster is not cackling or blathering nonsense, it declares she has “a huge head” as she looks in the mirror and berates her comments as “dumb.” The girl puts on a hat and doesn’t participate, but the monster grows, lurking just behind her, until she confronts it across the gutter. She drowns it out by making her own instruments from household oddments—cutlery, tin cans, jars—and it begins to shrink. Eventually, she squashes the buzzing, fly-sized monster between two pot-lid cymbals—“SPLAT!”—and she never hears from it again. (If only it were so easy.) The text is very sparse, with far more sound effects than narrative text, so the story depends on the pictures to fill in the gaps, especially in the opening few pages. It would perhaps be best read silently or experienced as part of a discussion. Among her multiracial classmates, the white-appearing girl has a burst of curly, bright-red hair. The monster is an amorphous blob of shadowy scribbles with rounded teeth and flipperlike appendages. Kang’s art has the look and texture of colored pencils on ribbed paper, with thick, fluid lines and effective layering. Color sets the mood; neutrals take over when the monster is influential—the girl’s bright hair is literally squashed under the bluish-gray hat—and transition to a brighter palette when the girl is in control.

It’s a successful visual metaphor but lacking in some practical application of text. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4847-2882-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught...

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A PROBLEM?

A child struggles with the worry and anxiety that come with an unexpected problem.

In a wonderful balance of text and pictures, the team responsible for What Do You Do With an Idea (2014) returns with another book inspiring children to feel good about themselves. A child frets about a problem that won’t go away: “I wished it would just disappear. I tried everything I could to hide from it. I even found ways to disguise myself. But it still found me.” The spare, direct narrative is accompanied by soft gray illustrations in pencil and watercolor. The sepia-toned figure of the child is set apart from the background and surrounded by lots of white space, visually isolating the problem, which is depicted as a purple storm cloud looming overhead. Color is added bit by bit as the storm cloud grows and its color becomes more saturated. With a backpack and umbrella, the child tries to escape the problem while the storm swirls, awash with compass points scattered across the pages. The pages brighten into splashes of yellow as the child decides to tackle the problem head-on and finds that it holds promise for unlooked-for opportunity.

A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught situations, this belongs on the shelf alongside Molly Bang’s Sophie books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943-20000-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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Accessible, reassuring and hopeful.

THE INVISIBLE BOY

This endearing picture book about a timid boy who longs to belong has an agenda but delivers its message with great sensitivity.

Brian wants to join in but is overlooked, even ostracized, by his classmates. Readers first see him alone on the front endpapers, drawing in chalk on the ground. The school scenarios are uncomfortably familiar: High-maintenance children get the teacher’s attention; team captains choose kickball players by popularity and athletic ability; chatter about birthday parties indicates they are not inclusive events. Tender illustrations rendered in glowing hues capture Brian’s isolation deftly; compared to the others and his surroundings, he appears in black and white. What saves Brian is his creativity. As he draws, Brian imagines amazing stories, including a poignant one about a superhero with the power to make friends. When a new boy takes some ribbing, it is Brian who leaves an illustrated note to make him feel better. The boy does not forget this gesture. It only takes one person noticing Brian for the others to see his talents have value; that he has something to contribute. Brian’s colors pop. In the closing endpapers, Brian’s classmates are spread around him on the ground, “wearing” his chalk-drawn wings and capes. Use this to start a discussion: The author includes suggested questions and recommended reading lists for adults and children.

Accessible, reassuring and hopeful. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-582-46450-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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