BEAUTIFUL BLACKBIRD

Blackbird shares his gifts with the birds of Africa in this colorful read-aloud. This adaptation of an Ila story tells of long ago, when all the birds have solid colored, unpatterned feathers, and only Blackbird has any black at all. The other birds agree that Blackbird is the most beautiful, as his black feathers “gleam all colors in the sun.” Blackbird mixes up a little something in his medicine gourd, and presents each bird with some black patterns of its own. The birds are happy with their new designs, and chorus, “Black is beautiful, UH-HUH.” This telling, by the master storyteller, just aches to be read aloud; the lively rhythms keep the simple folktale rollicking along. The cut-paper collage illustrations are full of color, but it’s of blandly similar intensity until Blackbird arrives with his blackening brew. Then the newly patterned birds, gleaming in high-contrast images with their new designs, make for visual excitement as they praise Blackbird for their new look. A good start at challenging learned ways of reading color that reserve black for scary or dull images, the text implies a racial metaphor (unless the refrain “black is beautiful” is focused only on rethinking artistic codes), yet whatever message of tolerance or self-love the text might hold is obscure. Blackbird talks of the difference a little black can make, but he also emphasizes that external appearances do not reflect the inner self. Which of the two is more important is never clarified. Still, the rolling language and appealing illustrations make this a must. (Picture book/folktale. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-689-84731-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2002

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A quiet story of sharing with no strings attached.

EXTRA YARN

A little girl in a town of white snow and soot-blackened chimneys opens a small box and discovers a never-ending gift of colorful yarn.

Annabelle knits herself a sweater, and with the leftover yarn, she knits one for her dog, and with the yarn left over from that, she knits one for a neighbor and for her classmates and for her teacher and for her family and for the birdhouse and for the buildings in town. All and everything are warm, cozy and colorful until a clotheshorse of an archduke arrives. Annabelle refuses his monetary offers, whereupon the box is stolen. The greedy archduke gets his just deserts when he opens the box to find it empty. It wends its way back to Annabelle, who ends up happily sitting in a knit-covered tree. Klassen, who worked on the film Coraline, uses inks, gouache and colorized scans of a sweater to create a stylized, linear design of dark geometric shapes against a white background. The stitches of the sweaters add a subdued rainbow. Barnett entertained middle-grade readers with his Brixton Brothers detective series. Here, he maintains a folkloric narrative that results in a traditional story arc complete with repetition, drama and a satisfying conclusion.

A quiet story of sharing with no strings attached. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-06-195338-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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A culturally intricate slice of a lupine courier’s life.

¡VAMOS! LET'S GO TO THE MARKET

From the ¡Vamos! series

Little Lobo and his dog, Bernabé, journey through a Mexican mercado delivering diverse goods to a variety of booths.

With the aid of red words splattered throughout the spreads as labels, Raúl the Third gives an introduction to Spanish vocabulary as Little Lobo, an anthropomorphic wolf, leaves his house, fills his cart with objects from his warehouse, and delivers them to the market’s vendors. The journey also serves as a crash course in Mexican culture, as the images are packed with intertextual details such as food, traditional games, and characters, including Cantinflas, Frida Khalo, and Juan Gabriel. Readers acquainted with Raúl the Third’s characters from his Lowriders series with author Cathy Camper will appreciate cameos from familiar characters. As he makes his rounds, Little Lobo also collects different artifacts that people offer in exchange for his deliveries of shoe polish, clothespins, wood, tissue paper, paintbrushes, and a pair of golden laces. Although Raúl the Third departs from the ball-pen illustrations that he is known for, his depiction of creatures and critters peppering the borderland where his stories are set remains in his trademark style. The softer hues in the illustrations (chosen by colorist Bay) keep the busy compositions friendly, and the halftone patterns filling the illustrations create foregrounds and backgrounds reminiscent of Roy Lichtenstein’s pointillism.

A culturally intricate slice of a lupine courier’s life. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-55726-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Versify/HMH

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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