A rare misstep from a first-rate author.


Twins Nora and Ben uncover a family secret: Their little sister, Birdy, was adopted.

The White family’s ancestry is European: Mother, a newspaper columnist, is Irish; Father, an art professor, is Italian. When Mother administers a home DNA test for her column about ancestry, Birdy copies her, preparing a test for herself using the kit Father rejects. When the results come back, the twins realize Birdy substituted her sample for Mother’s and that Birdy’s ancestry is Swedish. Confused, the twins confide in a former teacher who asks them if it matters. They decide it doesn’t but continue to probe the mystery; meanwhile, Mother makes weekly trips to place flowers on her best friend’s grave. The tale unfolds gently, with MacLachlan’s signature grace and luminous simplicity, but the complex subject—poised where nature and nurture intersect—both calls for and deserves more nuanced treatment than plot or format allow. Even though Birdy’s atypical adoption sidesteps difficult issues, young readers may wonder why Birdy’s birth mother made her choice and why her birth father’s unknown. Overall, the story has a comfortably old-fashioned sensibility, but the depiction of adoption, understandably simplified, is also outdated, conflating problematic adoption secrecy with secrets trivial and benign. Beyond outing family secrets, DNA testing has given parentage and ancestry renewed prominence in how we identify ourselves. The message that, in a loving family, being adopted “doesn’t matter,” while well-intentioned, is misleading.

A rare misstep from a first-rate author. (Fiction. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-288585-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.


From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably...


A lad finds a penguin on his doorstep and resolutely sets out to return it in this briefly told import. 

Eventually, he ends up rowing it all the way back to Antarctica, braving waves and storms, filling in the time by telling it stories. But then, feeling lonely after he drops his silent charge off, he belatedly realizes that it was probably lonely too, and turns back to find it. Seeing Jeffers’s small, distant figures in wide, simply brushed land- and sea-scapes, young viewers will probably cotton to the penguin’s feelings before the boy himself does—but all’s well that ends well, and the reunited companions are last seen adrift together in the wide blue sea. 

Readers who (inexplicably) find David Lawrence’s Pickle and Penguin (2004) just too weird may settle in more comfortably with this—slightly—less offbeat friendship tale. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-399-24503-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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