Readers may wish that Talk Like a Pirate Day lasted all year long.

PIRATE STEW

This book could serve as a recruiting drive for pirates, mostly because of the hair.

Pirate hair, in Riddell’s illustrations, is glorious. It’s powder blue, or it’s peaked like twin mountains or forms crests like waves in the ocean. More important, the pirates have joyous, irresistible smiles. But the two children who find themselves babysat by these benign buccaneers are still suspicious. The pirates in this picture book don’t follow the rules of ordinary seagoers. When they make their titular stew, the ingredients include “a Jolly Roger” and “half a sack of gold doubloons.” If you eat it, they say, “You’ll become a pirate too!” The artwork also blithely veers from the text. Gaiman says that the chief pirate has gray hair, but in Riddell’s delicately lined cartoons his beard is a bright, cheerful blue, proving that no one should ever trust pirates or artists or children’s-book authors. But it’s hard to be afraid of buccaneers who shout things like “Toodle-pip!” The crew is diverse enough—in wardrobe and in racial presentation—that almost any reader can feel welcome. The children have brown skin and come from an interracial family, with a White mother and a Black father. The rhythm of the rhyming text is instantly catchy, though it’s so dense that a word and its rhyme occasionally become separated when the layout places them on different pages. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.8-by-15-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Readers may wish that Talk Like a Pirate Day lasted all year long. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-293457-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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There’s always tomorrow.

TOMORROW IS WAITING

A lyrical message of perseverance and optimism.

The text uses direct address, which the title- and final-page illustrations suggest comes from an adult voice, to offer inspiration and encouragement. The opening spreads reads, “Tonight as you sleep, a new day stirs. / Each kiss good night is a wish for tomorrow,” as the accompanying art depicts a child with black hair and light skin asleep in a bed that’s fantastically situated in a stylized landscape of buildings, overpasses, and roadways. The effect is dreamlike, in contrast with the next illustration, of a child of color walking through a field and blowing dandelion fluff at sunrise. Until the last spread, each child depicted in a range of settings is solitary. Some visual metaphors falter in terms of credibility, as in the case of a white-appearing child using a wheelchair in an Antarctic ice cave strewn with obstacles, as the text reads “you’ll explore the world, only feeling lost in your imagination.” Others are oblique in attempted connections between text and art. How does a picture of a pale-skinned, black-haired child on a bridge in the rain evoke “first moments that will dance with you”? But the image of a child with pink skin and brown hair scaling a wall as text reads “there will be injustice that will challenge you, and it will surprise you how brave you can be” is clearer.

There’s always tomorrow. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-99437-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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A touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area.

RED AND LULU

A pair of cardinals is separated and then reunited when their tree home is moved to New York City to serve as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

The male cardinal, Red, and his female partner, Lulu, enjoy their home in a huge evergreen tree located in the front yard of a small house in a pleasant neighborhood. When the tree is cut down and hauled away on a truck, Lulu is still inside the tree. Red follows the truck into the city but loses sight of it and gets lost. The birds are reunited when Red finds the tree transformed with colored lights and serving as the Christmas tree in a complex of city buildings. When the tree is removed after Christmas, the birds find a new home in a nearby park. Each following Christmas, the pair visit the new tree erected in the same location. Attractive illustrations effectively handle some difficult challenges of dimension and perspective and create a glowing, magical atmosphere for the snowy Christmas trees. The original owners of the tree are a multiracial family with two children; the father is African-American and the mother is white. The family is in the background in the early pages, reappearing again skating on the rink at Rockefeller Center with their tree in the background.

A touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7733-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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