An absorbing—and absorbent—tale of togetherness with turns both comical and dramatic.

DINO-GRO

How to make a tiny toy grow? Just add water!

Cole’s new blue dinosaur fits neatly in his hand until it climbs into a glass of water, which touches off persistent efforts to get, as it repeatedly says with its one and only word: “Wet.” A dive into the fish tank (“Wet”) and an encounter with the sprinkler later (“Wet!”)—not to mention a fridge raid and a shower—and Dino-Gro has outgrown the house. Forced at last to move outdoors, the blue behemoth sadly wanders off…but lumbers back, huger than ever, to the rescue (“Wet!”) when a mighty storm floods the neighborhood. In the lightly caricatured illustrations, Dino-Gro’s doggy friendliness (not to mention size) recalls overgrown picture-book pooches like Pinkerton and Clifford, though in build and hue it actually looks like a cross between a hippo and Barney. Myers depicts Cole, his parents, and the little sister that soon comes along as racially ambiguous, with light brown skin. Viewers will dwell, amused, on the lovingly detailed chaos Dino-Gro leaves in its wake as it chugs the water out of flower vases and rummages through the fridge, and they will chuckle at the comical final scene as Cole’s mom’s remark that the new baby will grow prompts the helpful creature to rush up with the garden hose: “Wet?” (This book was reviewed digitally.)

An absorbing—and absorbent—tale of togetherness with turns both comical and dramatic. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: June 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-17987-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Random House Studio

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A full-hearted valentine.

THIS IS A SCHOOL

A soaring panegyric to elementary school as a communal place to learn and grow.

“This is a kid,” Schu begins. “This is a kid in a class. This is a class in a hall….” If that class—possibly second graders, though they could be a year to either side of that—numbers only about a dozen in Jamison’s bright paintings, it makes up for that in diversity, with shiny faces of variously brown or olive complexion well outnumbering paler ones; one child using a wheelchair; and at least two who appear to be Asian. (The adult staff is likewise racially diverse.) The children are individualized in the art, but the author’s narrative is addressed more to an older set of readers as it runs almost entirely to collective nouns and abstract concepts: “We share. We help. / This is a community, growing.” Younger audiences will zero in on the pictures, which depict easily recognizable scenes of both individual and collective learning and play, with adults and classmates always on hand to help out or join in. Signs of conflict are unrealistically absent, but an occasional downcast look does add a bit of nuance to the general air of eager positivity on display. A sad face at an apartment window with a comment that “[s]ometimes something happens, and we can’t all be together” can be interpreted as an oblique reference to pandemic closings, but the central message here is that school is a physical space, not a virtual one, where learning and community happen. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A full-hearted valentine. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0458-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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Accessible, reassuring and hopeful.

THE INVISIBLE BOY

This endearing picture book about a timid boy who longs to belong has an agenda but delivers its message with great sensitivity.

Brian wants to join in but is overlooked, even ostracized, by his classmates. Readers first see him alone on the front endpapers, drawing in chalk on the ground. The school scenarios are uncomfortably familiar: High-maintenance children get the teacher’s attention; team captains choose kickball players by popularity and athletic ability; chatter about birthday parties indicates they are not inclusive events. Tender illustrations rendered in glowing hues capture Brian’s isolation deftly; compared to the others and his surroundings, he appears in black and white. What saves Brian is his creativity. As he draws, Brian imagines amazing stories, including a poignant one about a superhero with the power to make friends. When a new boy takes some ribbing, it is Brian who leaves an illustrated note to make him feel better. The boy does not forget this gesture. It only takes one person noticing Brian for the others to see his talents have value; that he has something to contribute. Brian’s colors pop. In the closing endpapers, Brian’s classmates are spread around him on the ground, “wearing” his chalk-drawn wings and capes. Use this to start a discussion: The author includes suggested questions and recommended reading lists for adults and children.

Accessible, reassuring and hopeful. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-582-46450-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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