The game of shinny, which never grows old.

WHEN THE MOON COMES

It is a ritual with many moving parts. So it is rare, and so it is magic.

This story takes place in the north. Could be Canada, or Minnesota, or New York. All that matters is that it is north, where the cold bites, which is one of the prerequisites. “When you walk in the woods, the leaves shatter under your feet like glass.” Bone-cracking cold keeps the wind down and closes the ice crystals tight on the beaver pond. A small, diverse company of kids is anxious to get on the ice. Things could go wrong—a sudden warming, rain, a wet snow—but even during the daytime, James keeps the artwork feeling cold with images that feel as though they have been carved from ice-covered scratchboard. Finally, the full moon rises. “We walk between ridges, through dense tamarack swamp…and up a high hill. In the distance we see the wide, snowy flat of the beaver flood,” which they arrive at just as night falls. “Our wet pants freeze solid...we walk clanking like knights in armor.” They make a fire, warm their toes, and get on with some deep-woods pond hockey on perfect ice. The illustrations, with their burnished waning light, and the clipped-short narrative combine to create an atmosphere that for anyone who has experienced it will feel pitch-perfect.

The game of shinny, which never grows old. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-10191-777-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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As insubstantial as hot air.

THE WORLD NEEDS WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE

A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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