CLOUDETTE

Lichtenheld takes a charming turn with the "tiny but mighty" theme. Cloudette usually enjoys being small—she can cavort with birds and kites, and hide between skyscrapers. But she’s wistful when other clouds do big things, like create cold fronts and water crops. Her imagination yields lots of wishes, depicted in ink-and-watercolor spot illustrations. “[S]he thought nothing would be more fun than giving some kids a day off from school,” accompanies a snowscape with banks billowing up to the windows of the school and buses clearly going nowhere. No one seems to need a little cloud, but when she’s blown clear out of her neighborhood, she’s welcomed by new friends—an eagle, a bear and fluffy cumuli. She spies a frog in a former pond, now just a puddle of cracked mud, and has a helpful “brainstorm.” Lichtenheld’s depictions of Cloudette puffing herself up for a fulsome downpour will delight children, and funny turns of phrase (“Even the higher-ups were impressed”) will engage adults, too. The whimsy would nicely complement a preschool or primary weather unit. The author even uses rainwater for the watercolor pictures. (“Thank you, clouds,” he writes in the media statement.) Sweet and sunny. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8050-8776-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2011

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A solid, small step for diversifying STEM stories.

ASTRONAUT ANNIE

What does Annie want to be?

As career day approaches, Annie wants to keep her job choice secret until her family sees her presentation at school. Readers will figure it out, however, through the title and clues Tadgell incorporates into the illustrations. Family members make guesses about her ambitions that are tied to their own passions, although her brother watches as she completes her costume in a bedroom with a Mae Jemison poster, starry décor, and a telescope. There’s a celebratory mood at the culminating presentation, where Annie says she wants to “soar high through the air” like her basketball-playing mother, “explore faraway places” like her hiker dad, and “be brave and bold” like her baker grandmother (this feels forced, but oven mitts are part of her astronaut costume) so “the whole world will hear my exciting stories” like her reporter grandfather. Annie jumps off a chair to “BLAST OFF” in a small illustration superimposed on a larger picture depicting her floating in space with a reddish ground below. It’s unclear if Annie imagines this scene or if it’s her future-self exploring Mars, but either scenario fits the aspirational story. Backmatter provides further reading suggestions and information about the moon and four women astronauts, one of whom is Jemison. Annie and her family are all black.

A solid, small step for diversifying STEM stories. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-88448-523-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Tilbury House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Sure to assuage the fears of all astronauts bound for similar missions.

PLANET KINDERGARTEN

A genius way to ease kids into the new adventure that is kindergarten.

In an imaginative ruse that’s maintained through the whole book, a young astronaut prepares for his mission to Planet Kindergarten. On liftoff day (a space shuttle–themed calendar counts down the days; a stopwatch, the minutes), the small family boards their rocket ship (depicted in the illustrations as the family car), and “the boosters fire.” They orbit base camp while looking for a docking place. “I am assigned to my commander, capsule, and crewmates.” Though he’s afraid, he stands tall and is brave (not just once, either—the escape hatch beckons, but NASA’s saying gets him through: “FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION”). Parents will certainly chuckle along with this one, but kindergarten teachers’ stomach muscles will ache: “[G]ravity works differently here. We have to try hard to stay in our seats. And our hands go up a lot.” Prigmore’s digital illustrations are the perfect complement to the tongue-in-cheek text. Bold colors, sharp lines and a retro-space style play up the theme. The intrepid explorer’s crewmates are a motley assortment of “aliens”—among them are a kid in a hoodie with the laces pulled so tight that only a nose and mouth are visible; a plump kid with a bluish cast to his skin; and a pinkish girl with a toothpick-thin neck and huge bug eyes.

Sure to assuage the fears of all astronauts bound for similar missions. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 20, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4521-1893-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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