Not exactly first-class travel.

PEACE TRAIN

Climb aboard, with this visual interpretation of the classic 1971 song.

The lyrics of Stevens’ song are the catalyst for this colorful picture book, which depicts a golden-hued train with a plume of psychedelic smoke initially traveling across an unknown and barren landscape. As the train chugs along, a tan-skinned, purple-haired guitar player makes their way to the train and travels with it, sometimes riding, sometimes walking alongside it, as it picks up a racially and ethnically diverse group of passengers. Reynolds’ cartoon illustrations are characteristically bold, the flower-power symbols in the smoke making a cheery if sometimes hard-to-distinguish clutter. As with many songs-cum–picture books, some of the lyrics defy visual interpretation. “Everyone jump up on the Peace Train” is nicely imagined with a cat leaping into the arms of the guitar-playing protagonist, but Reynolds’ accompaniment to the stanza that begins “Now, come and join the living” simply frames it in a close-up of symbolic smoke. In visual answer to “Why must we go on hating? / Why can’t we live in bliss?” the guitar player lays musical notes over a scary hole in the tracks that represents “the world as it is.” The train safely passes, but it all seems awfully easy. Musically inclined caregivers who feel confident belting out the lyrics may find this a useful title for peace-themed storytimes, but the overall depictions of peace and unity feel superficial at best.

Not exactly first-class travel. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-305399-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE SCHOOLS

From the My Purple World series

A color-themed vision of what school should be like.

In what amounts to a rehash of The World Needs More Purple People (2020), Bell and Hart address adult as well as young readers to explain what “curious and kind you” can do to make school, or for that matter the universe, a better place. Again culminating in the vague but familiar “JUST. BE. YOU!” the program remains much the same—including asking questions both “universe-sized” (“Could you make a burrito larger than a garbage truck?”) and “smaller, people-sized” (i.e., personal), working hard to learn and make things, offering praise and encouragement, speaking up and out, laughing together, and listening to others. In the illustrations, light-skinned, blond-haired narrator Penny poses amid a busy, open-mouthed, diverse cast that includes a child wearing a hijab and one who uses a wheelchair. Wiseman opts to show fewer grown-ups here, but the children are the same as in the earlier book, and a scene showing two figures blowing chocolate milk out of their noses essentially recycles a visual joke from the previous outing. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-43490-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more