Both busy and meandering, but readers may like the dancing Cossack bears.

JAN BRETT'S THE NUTCRACKER

Brett applies her signature visual storytelling style to the Christmas favorite.

By setting her tale in a snowy, 19th-century Russian city and including in her trademark marginal vignettes both golden musical staves crowded with notes and animal instrumentalists clad in traditional Russian attire, Brett situates this retelling in Tchaikovsky’s ballet rather than Hoffman’s original story, though she retains Hoffman’s names. And as the ballet does, Brett crams her stage with characters, beginning with the Christmas party when Drosselmeier presents Marie with the Nutcracker and continuing through the battle with the Mouse King to Marie and the Nutcracker’s visit to what is here called the land of the Snow Princess. Once there, anthropomorphic Russian animals replace the ethnically stereotyped sweets of the ballet, with arctic foxes, flying squirrels, and hedgehogs taking turns in a snowy wonderland. Like the plot of the ballet, not much makes sense under close examination; unlike the ballet, Brett’s figures display very little movement, so hemmed in are they. Even compositions with relatively few figures feel crowded with decorative detail and superfluous tiny animals, so much so that readers may need to work hard to parse meaning. Despite its adherence to the plot of the ballet, this is not a particularly good preparation for it, but readers already familiar with it may enjoy taking in Brett’s vision. All human characters present White. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Both busy and meandering, but readers may like the dancing Cossack bears. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-10982-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted.

GOING PLACES

Imagination soars—quite literally—when a little girl follows her own set of rules.

Every year Oak Hill School has a go-kart race called the Going Places contest. Students are given identical go-kart kits with a precise set of instructions. And of course, every single kart ends up exactly the same. Every one, that is, except Maya’s. Maya is a dreamy artist, and she would rather sketch birds in her backyard than get caught up in the competition. When she finally does start working, she uses the parts in the go-kart box but creates something completely different. No one ever said it had to be a go-kart. Maya’s creative thinking inspires Rafael, her neighbor (and the most enthusiastic Going Places contestant), to ask to team up. The instructions never say they couldn’t work together, either! An ode to creativity and individuality to be sure, but the Reynolds brothers are also taking a swipe at modern education: Endless repetition and following instructions without question create a culture of conformity. Hopefully now, readers will see infinite possibility every time the system hands them an identical go-kart box.

Not astonishingly go-out-and-buy-it-at-graduation inspirational, but all it takes is one seed of change to be planted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-6608-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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This simple and sincere tale of working up courage to face fears makes quite a splash.

JABARI JUMPS

Young Jabari decides today is the day he is going to jump from the diving board, even though it’s a little high and a little scary.

Jabari’s father and baby sister accompany him to the swimming pool in the city, where Jabari has already made up his mind about today’s goal: jumping off the diving board. “I’m a great jumper,” he says, “so I’m not scared at all.” But that’s not entirely true. Readers see Jabari play the waiting game as the other children (a diverse bunch) make their ways past him in line. Once Jabari finally begins to climb up, he slyly remembers that he forgot to “stretch.” The stalling techniques don’t faze his dad, who sees an opportunity for a life lesson. “It’s okay to feel a little scared,” offers his dad at the side of the pool. With renewed will, Jabari returns to the towering diving board, ready to embrace the feat. In her debut, Cornwall places her loving black family at the center, coloring the swimming pool and park beyond in minty hues and adding whimsy with digitally collaged newspaper for skyscrapers. A bird’s-eye view of Jabari’s toes clinging to the edge of the diving board as he looks way, way down at the blue pool below puts readers in his head and in the action.

This simple and sincere tale of working up courage to face fears makes quite a splash. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7838-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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