A poignant, existential, yet kid-friendly slice-of-(fish)-life story with a splash of humor.

WHAT I THINK ABOUT WHEN I THINK ABOUT SWIMMING

A goldfish’s thoughts swim with the big—and not so big—questions of life.

“When I am swimming, I think about many things,” begins the introspective narrator of indeterminate gender. While swimming inside their fishbowl, they recall being a baby fish hanging in a plastic bag in a pet store; ponder “what it will be like to be old”; and reminisce about “days out” on the ocean and other fish who have crossed their path. They also think about past brushes with “monsters” (the artwork shows a cat); wonder “what it would be like to have legs”; fret about climate change; and—the authorial disguise wearing even thinner—light up with an idea for a book. The book’s back flap mentions that the fish thinks about “falling in love,” but it is not clear exactly where this pans out in the narrative. Levenson’s text is elegantly spare. The goldfish pictured in O’Hagan’s minimalist, mostly close-up illustrations is expressive of both face and body language, gazing longingly out of a window, for instance, and, in one scene, posing on a rock like Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid. Adults can use the spread showing the fish floating inside a light bulb to introduce the concept of metaphor to children. Young readers will relate to the fish’s penchant for daydreaming and will also find common ground (so to speak) in the wry capper: “But mostly all I think about is…dinner.”

A poignant, existential, yet kid-friendly slice-of-(fish)-life story with a splash of humor. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4994-8973-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Windmill Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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Formulaic but not stale…even if it does mine previous topical material rather than expand it.

HOW DO DINOSAURS SHOW GOOD MANNERS?

From the How Do Dinosaurs…? series

A guide to better behavior—at home, on the playground, in class, and in the library.

Serving as a sort of overview for the series’ 12 previous exercises in behavior modeling, this latest outing opens with a set of badly behaving dinos, identified in an endpaper key and also inconspicuously in situ. Per series formula, these are paired to leading questions like “Does she spit out her broccoli onto the floor? / Does he shout ‘I hate meat loaf!’ while slamming the door?” (Choruses of “NO!” from young audiences are welcome.) Midway through, the tone changes (“No, dinosaurs don’t”), and good examples follow to the tune of positive declarative sentences: “They wipe up the tables and vacuum the floors. / They share all the books and they never slam doors,” etc. Teague’s customary, humongous prehistoric crew, all depicted in exact detail and with wildly flashy coloration, fill both their spreads and their human-scale scenes as their human parents—no same-sex couples but some are racially mixed, and in one the man’s the cook—join a similarly diverse set of sibs and other children in either disapprobation or approving smiles. All in all, it’s a well-tested mix of oblique and prescriptive approaches to proper behavior as well as a lighthearted way to play up the use of “please,” “thank you,” and even “I’ll help when you’re hurt.”

Formulaic but not stale…even if it does mine previous topical material rather than expand it. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-36334-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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While simplistic, it’s a serviceable starter for discussions of spectrum disorders with younger neurotypical audiences.

ISAAC AND HIS AMAZING ASPERGER SUPERPOWERS!

Isaac explains why he wears a mask and cape and sometimes has special needs.

Packaged between rainbow-striped endpapers, this purposeful monologue offers a mix of positive takes—“I’ve got special superpowers that make me slightly different from my brother and the other kids at school”—and coping strategies. Among these latter are looking at foreheads rather than directly at eyes, which makes him “feel scared,” and keeping personal comments “inside my head so that I don’t upset people.” In the big, simple illustrations, Walsh gives Isaac uniformly smiling pets and peers for company, and she shows him less than cheerful only once, when the buzzing of fluorescent lights “makes my ears really hurt.” At the end he explains that he has Asperger’s, “which is a kind of autism,” and closes by affirming that his brother understands him, “and now you do too!” That may be overstating the case, but Isaac comes off as less inscrutable than the children in Gail Watts’ Kevin Thinks (2012) or Davene Fahy and Carol Inouye’s Anthony Best (2013). That the book is aimed not at children on the spectrum but at their peers is made explicit in a jacket-flap note from the author, whose son has Asperger’s.

While simplistic, it’s a serviceable starter for discussions of spectrum disorders with younger neurotypical audiences. (URL list) (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8121-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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