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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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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