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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Cool beans indeed.

THE COOL BEAN

From the Food Group series

A supposed “has-bean” shows that coolness has more to do with deeds than demeanor.

Offering further moral instruction in this leguminous cousin to The Bad Seed (2017) and The Good Egg (2019), Oswald portrays three beans—each a different species but all sporting boss shades, fly threads, and that requisite air of nonchalance—bringing the cool to streets, hallways, playgrounds, and Leguma Beach. Meanwhile, a fourth (a scraggly-haired chickpea), whose efforts to echo the look and the ’tude have fallen flat, takes on the role of nerdy narrator to recall “olden days” when they all hung out in the same pod. Still, despite rolling separate ways (nobody’s fault: “That’s just how it is sometimes. You spend less time together, even though you’re not totally sure why”), when the uncool bean drops a lunch tray, skins a kid knee on the playground, or just needs a hint in class, one of the others is always on the scene toot suite. No biggie. And passing those casual acts of kindness forward? “Now that’s cool.” John’s good-hearted text makes some hay with the bean puns while Oswald’s pipe-stemmed limbs, googly eyes, and accessories give these anthropomorphic legumes lots of personality. As a fava to young audiences, pair with Jamie Michalak and Frank Kolar’s Frank and Bean (2019) for a musical combination.

Cool beans indeed. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-295452-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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