More a cute collectible for established fans than a children’s book that invites new curiosity.

SISTER, BROTHER, FAMILY

AN AMERICAN CHILDHOOD IN MUSIC

This story of how siblings Willie and Bobbie Nelson became lifelong musical partners focuses on how the two grew up together in Abbott, Texas.

Many fans know the story of the redheaded stranger Willie Nelson, the songwriter and performer who, at age 88, continues to perform and release music. But far fewer know the story of Nelson’s sister, Bobbie, a pianist and gifted singer who has played with her brother since the two were young children. “My first piano was one we made from cardboard, with a keyboard drawn in crayon,” Bobbie says in the alternating narration. “We loved music. Music loved us back. It provided for us and protected us and supported our family’s soul,” Willie says. The family’s rural life is portrayed as loving and idyllic as the two are raised by their grandparents until their grandfather dies. From there it’s a short, abrupt journey from playing in church and in front of their first crowds to playing to huge audiences, as shown in a collection of ticket stubs that bookend the storybook. This picture book feels disconnected from its putative child audience. By softening rough edges and by focusing only on the siblings’ childhood, the story pins itself to an old-fashioned past. The serviceable illustrations that seem intentionally faded and muted likewise don’t concede much to a modern kid audience. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

More a cute collectible for established fans than a children’s book that invites new curiosity. (Picture book/memoir. 3-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984851-83-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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There’s always tomorrow.

TOMORROW IS WAITING

A lyrical message of perseverance and optimism.

The text uses direct address, which the title- and final-page illustrations suggest comes from an adult voice, to offer inspiration and encouragement. The opening spreads reads, “Tonight as you sleep, a new day stirs. / Each kiss good night is a wish for tomorrow,” as the accompanying art depicts a child with black hair and light skin asleep in a bed that’s fantastically situated in a stylized landscape of buildings, overpasses, and roadways. The effect is dreamlike, in contrast with the next illustration, of a child of color walking through a field and blowing dandelion fluff at sunrise. Until the last spread, each child depicted in a range of settings is solitary. Some visual metaphors falter in terms of credibility, as in the case of a white-appearing child using a wheelchair in an Antarctic ice cave strewn with obstacles, as the text reads “you’ll explore the world, only feeling lost in your imagination.” Others are oblique in attempted connections between text and art. How does a picture of a pale-skinned, black-haired child on a bridge in the rain evoke “first moments that will dance with you”? But the image of a child with pink skin and brown hair scaling a wall as text reads “there will be injustice that will challenge you, and it will surprise you how brave you can be” is clearer.

There’s always tomorrow. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-101-99437-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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