Striking, expressionist graphics and a plainspoken, minimalist text distinguish this standout.

WALL

British illustrator Cole’s life-affirming debut for children marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.

A boy narrates this poignant account of a family divided by the towering wall. “My mom said that while the wall was being made, / our dad got stuck on the other side. // I worried he was lonely, / but Mom said life was better over there. // And we couldn’t leave, anyway.” The father’s in West Berlin—free, yet consigned to life without his wife and children. The Eastern, Soviet-dominated occupation is conveyed in bleak, blue-black scenes dominated by guard towers, barbed wire and claustrophobic interiors. The boy dreams “of Dad breaking through the wall and rescuing us.” Dad appears as a savior, his muddy coat radiantly backlit, shards of wall and an open book at his feet. Understanding the unlikelihood of a family reunion, the boy nonetheless imagines “all kinds of ways to get across.” Some escapees breach the wall—some fail. Yet, if they do nothing, they might never find Dad. “So I started digging.” Mother, son and daughter, escaping toward the tunnel, are stopped by an ultimately sympathetic guard. In a dramatic denouement, the family finds Dad, just in time—he’s digging his own tunnel east.

Striking, expressionist graphics and a plainspoken, minimalist text distinguish this standout. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7560-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.

ROBOBABY

Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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This tale of self-acceptance and respect for one’s roots is breathtaking.

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EYES THAT KISS IN THE CORNERS

A young Chinese American girl sees more than the shape of her eyes.

In this circular tale, the unnamed narrator observes that some peers have “eyes like sapphire lagoons / with lashes like lace trim on ballgowns,” but her eyes are different. She “has eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea.” Author Ho’s lyrical narrative goes on to reveal how the girl’s eyes are like those of other women and girls in her family, expounding on how each pair of eyes looks and what they convey. Mama’s “eyes sparkl[e] like starlight,” telling the narrator, “I’m a miracle. / In those moments when she’s all mine.” Mama’s eyes, the girl observes, take after Amah’s. While she notes that her grandmother’s eyes “don’t work like they used to,” they are able to see “all the way into my heart” and tell her stories. Here, illustrator Ho’s spreads bloom with references to Chinese stories and landscapes. Amah’s eyes are like those of the narrator’s little sister. Mei-Mei’s eyes are filled with hope and with admiration for her sister. Illustrator Ho’s textured cartoons and clever use of light and shadow exude warmth and whimsy that match the evocative text. When the narrator comes to describe her own eyes and acknowledges the power they hold, she is posed against swirling patterns, figures, and swaths of breathtaking landscapes from Chinese culture. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

This tale of self-acceptance and respect for one’s roots is breathtaking. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-291562-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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