A sweet story that will have children clamoring to see a show, perhaps with their own bears.

CORDUROY TAKES A BOW

Don Freeman’s beloved Corduroy experiences an unforgettable night at the theater in this debut picture book from Tony- and Academy Award–winning actress Davis with co-author Hennessy and illustrator Wheeler.

When Corduroy accompanies Lisa and her mother to the theater to see a dramatization of nursery rhymes, mischief and fun inevitably follow. After he’s accidentally dropped before the curtain goes up, the ever curious bear ambles through the theater, eager to find the perfect vantage point from which to view the production. Corduroy’s adventures take him from the orchestra pit to the costume room and finally onto the stage itself! The author’s simple text conveys both her love of theater and the magical experience of a child who’s brought to see a show for the first time. Lisa may be sitting in the plush red seats enjoying the show, but the real production is backstage, which readers experience through Corduroy’s eyes. One of Wheeler’s talents as an illustrator is facial expressions, and she captures Corduroy’s elation, trepidation, and fearlessness as he freewheels from adventure to adventure even as she successfully mimics Freeman’s style. Perhaps the book’s most valuable visual aspect is featuring people of color in all elements of the theater, from Lisa and her mother, of course, to the orchestra pit, stage manager, and actors. Even Lisa’s doll, shown at the end, is of color, providing much-needed representation.

A sweet story that will have children clamoring to see a show, perhaps with their own bears. (Picture book 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-425-29147-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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It’s a bit hard to dance, or count, to this beat.

ONE MORE DINO ON THE FLOOR

Dinos that love to move and groove get children counting from one to 10—and perhaps moving to the beat.

Beginning with a solo bop by a female dino (she has eyelashes, doncha know), the dinosaur dance party begins. Each turn of the page adds another dino and a change in the dance genre: waltz, country line dancing, disco, limbo, square dancing, hip-hop, and swing. As the party would be incomplete without the moonwalk, the T. Rex does the honors…and once they are beyond their initial panic at his appearance, the onlookers cheer wildly. The repeated refrain on each spread allows for audience participation, though it doesn’t easily trip off the tongue: “They hear a swish. / What’s this? / One more? / One more dino on the floor.” Some of the prehistoric beasts are easily identifiable—pterodactyl, ankylosaurus, triceratops—but others will be known only to the dino-obsessed; none are identified, other than T-Rex. Packed spreads filled with psychedelically colored dinos sporting blocks of color, stripes, or polka dots (and infectious looks of joy) make identification even more difficult, to say nothing of counting them. Indeed, this fails as a counting primer: there are extra animals (and sometimes a grumpy T-Rex) in the backgrounds, and the next dino to join the party pokes its head into the frame on the page before. Besides all that, most kids won’t get the dance references.

It’s a bit hard to dance, or count, to this beat. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1598-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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An astonishing work of art and a crucial addition to every bookshelf.

WHEN WE SAY BLACK LIVES MATTER

The author of The Patchwork Bike (illustrated by Van Thanh Rudd, 2016) writes to children about the meaning of the phrase Black Lives Matter.

Pastel illustrations, also by Clarke, on dark, textured paper are paired with oversized, contrasting text addressed to “Little one.” In the visuals, a family that begins as a couple expecting a baby grows into a family with a child and then becomes part of a community in protest, marching for Black lives, before a final page shows a jubilant Black boy in a cap and gown. The adult narrator explains that “when we say Black Lives Matter, / we’re saying Black people are wonderful-strong.” Other meanings of the rallying cry, when it is called out, screamed, sung, laughed, and known, include a demand for respect, a defiant joy, a channeling of ancestors, an acknowledgment of trouble, and knowing one’s worth. Clarke’s text is poignant and mesmerizing, with design elements that raise the text to an artistic level, shaping it around the art and highlighting active and emotional words in color: enough, dancing, radiant, precious. The art is truly outstanding, gripping the heart from the very first spread and not letting go. With colored shapes and stained-glass motifs, these Black figures feel real and weighty. Within this deep dive are tragedy, fear, anger, and mourning alongside hope, comfort, strength, and triumph. This slim book contains a necessary and healing exploration of our current moment that will remain relevant for decades to come.

An astonishing work of art and a crucial addition to every bookshelf. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-2238-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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A quiet book about making a giant leap.

LOTTIE & WALTER

Lottie knows something no one else knows. Her mother and brother don’t know. Her swimming instructor does not know, and the other children in swim class certainly don’t know.

There is a shark that lives in the pool. It wants to eat Lottie—only Lottie—and Lottie is not going to let it get anywhere near her. Most children have had moments when they’ve sat on the sidelines watching others laugh and play because they were too scared to just dive in, and that is precisely where Lottie finds herself. Lucky for her, Walter shows up just in time. He sings, they read books, play in bubbles, and even share the same favorite food. But when it comes time for Lottie to face her fears, can Walter truly help? Walter, as readers and Lottie see but her family may not, is an enormous walrus. Walker’s soft and appropriately watery illustrations complement and extend her whimsical text, lending a dreamlike feel to the story. Readers will discern the shadowy, predatory shape of the shark below the surface of the water even as Lottie’s classmates splash and play, and they will sympathize, and they will giggle at the depictions of Walter’s huge bulk in Lottie’s tidy urban home while believing that Walter will protect her. Lottie, her mother, and her brother have light-brown skin and black hair.

A quiet book about making a giant leap. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-47038-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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