A beautifully rendered tale of loss, love, grief, and gentle healing.

THE PHONE BOOTH IN MR. HIROTA'S GARDEN

When tragedy strikes a Japanese fishing community, a young boy navigates grief with the help of a neighbor.

Every day, Makio and his elderly neighbor, Mr. Hirota, play a game spotting family members working on the shore cleaning the catch of the day. Suddenly an earthquake strikes, and the two watch in horror as their loved ones are caught in the ensuing tsunami. “Everyone lost someone the day the big wave came. / Silence hung over the village like a dark, heavy cloud.” Makio has not spoken since but curiously watches as Mr. Hirota builds a telephone booth in his garden to talk to his lost daughter, Fumika. Soon other members of the community use the booth to talk to their lost ones: “Hello, cousin. Today I fixed the boat. I will fish again soon.” Intrigued, Makio sneaks into the booth, finding a disconnected phone and the courage to finally say aloud, “I miss you, Dad.” Basing her story on the tsunami that struck Otsuchi, Japan, in 2011, Smith uses a reverent, poetic tone that is heightened by Wada’s mixed media illustrations. Wada uses a hybrid of Japanese art styles to mirror the grieving process, with the tragedy expressed in a dark gray palette, gradually underlined by pops of color and eventually giving way to a warmly colored pastel spread.

A beautifully rendered tale of loss, love, grief, and gentle healing. (author’s note) (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4598-2103-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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