Readers struggling with low self-esteem might find coping strategies here, but caregivers will want to add another: asking...

THE COLD LITTLE VOICE

A young child struggles to banish pervasive negative thoughts.

“I have a cold little voice that follows me everywhere,” the beleaguered narrator declares as a snarling, blue, tadpole-shaped thing with arms taps their shoulder. Sometimes it “digs in its claws and whispers its cold little thoughts,” berating their every inch—from their “ridiculous” haircut to their “funny” gait—until it’s all they hear. After the child, who ordinarily has purple skin, is “crushed” into “a small, grey nothing” and wonders, “Will it ever, ever stop?” a sunny voice they “never even knew [they] had inside [them]” says, “I’ll make it stop.” To that end, they sit in the sunlight, snuggle a cat, and seek out rainbow-skinned people who “like [them] the way [they are]. People who help.” (Unfortunately, the nature of this help is unspecified.) They resolve to “pity” and “hug” their cold voice so that it will “grow into a big, warm, kind voice” and possibly befriend “other people’s cold little voices,” spreading happiness until cold voices disappear. Though hopeful, this approach—culminating in seething voices filing through a “kindness factory” to emerge all smiles—feels unsettlingly facile against such relentless, unexplained self-criticism. The “little” voice looms frighteningly large; neither the text’s Comic Sans–esque typeface nor Dolby’s pastel-hued, cartoonish illustrations soften its nasty, eager grin or the exhaustion shadowing the child’s eyes.

Readers struggling with low self-esteem might find coping strategies here, but caregivers will want to add another: asking an adult for help. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: May 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-988347-11-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clockwise Press

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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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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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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