Lovely—a perfect segue into discussions about loneliness, empathy, refugees, and more.

ME + TREE

A tree stump on an urban playground and a girl new to the neighborhood forge a bond with their life stories.

This is one of those rare picture books that demands equal attention to lyrical text and outstanding art (always in double-page spreads) to work its magic. Before the text begins, readers are treated to a rainbow of tree rings across the pages. The next spread’s collage art shows a run-down urban setting, including chain-link fencing, tired playground equipment, tall brick buildings (painted with cheery graffiti that brighten the scene)—and a thick stump, introduced by a single line of text. The page turn reveals an entirely different mood: An enormous apple tree spreads across the pages, full of fruit, leaves, and active people. The text explains that this was the stump’s former life. The following pages lead readers from the tree’s demise to the unnoticed girl on the playground who spies the stump, whispers to it, and traces its rings. With her fingertip, she draws her own story upon the stump, from idyllic childhood to scenes of the girl and other people (many are brown-skinned; some women are in headscarves) leaving their homes and then making a dangerous sea voyage. Short but powerful phrases with extensive, carefully contextualized vocabulary reveal the girl’s emotions as she draws. The final double-page spread’s art relieves the sweet melancholia of the penultimate one.

Lovely—a perfect segue into discussions about loneliness, empathy, refugees, and more. (Picture book. 6-10)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-56846-346-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Creative Editions/Creative Company

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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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 fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode.

HORRIBLE HARRY SAYS GOODBYE

From the Horrible Harry series , Vol. 37

A long-running series reaches its closing chapters.

Having, as Kline notes in her warm valedictory acknowledgements, taken 30 years to get through second and third grade, Harry Spooger is overdue to move on—but not just into fourth grade, it turns out, as his family is moving to another town as soon as the school year ends. The news leaves his best friend, narrator “Dougo,” devastated…particularly as Harry doesn’t seem all that fussed about it. With series fans in mind, the author takes Harry through a sort of last-day-of-school farewell tour. From his desk he pulls a burned hot dog and other items that featured in past episodes, says goodbye to Song Lee and other classmates, and even (for the first time ever) leads Doug and readers into his house and memento-strewn room for further reminiscing. Of course, Harry isn’t as blasé about the move as he pretends, and eyes aren’t exactly dry when he departs. But hardly is he out of sight before Doug is meeting Mohammad, a new neighbor from Syria who (along with further diversifying a cast that began as mostly white but has become increasingly multiethnic over the years) will also be starting fourth grade at summer’s end, and planning a written account of his “horrible” buddy’s exploits. Finished illustrations not seen.

A fitting farewell, still funny, acute, and positive in its view of human nature even in its 37th episode. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-451-47963-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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