Witty and provocative, the tale provides food for thought in behavior management and governance as well as a great story.

THE POTATO KING

This German import recounts the intriguing legend surrounding Frederick the Great’s potato legislation.

In the versatile vegetable recently transported from South America, Fritz (as he is familiarly called here) sees a weapon to prevent famine in Prussia. He decrees that everyone should plant this crop; his citizens are not convinced. Niemann’s decision to utilize potato prints and photographs of the tuber against a clean white background makes this account a beautifully unified narrative accessible to a range of ages. The thoughtful design extends to the palette of both image and type—the king’s words and silhouette are both rendered in red, for instance. Controlled pacing builds suspense. A wordless, crowded spread of textured, blue soldiers and cannons contrasts with the previously spare compositions during which listeners learn, “He ordered his solders to march to the village….” To do what? Force-feed villagers? Imprison abstainers? No, rather, this clever king tries reverse psychology: “…and guard the potato field.” Since the forbidden is irresistible, naturally the people creep in at night to steal the royal plants for their own fields. This understated, visually delightful tale of how a humble vegetable found its way into the hearts and kitchens of a community will surely entertain young readers and move them to printmaking.

Witty and provocative, the tale provides food for thought in behavior management and governance as well as a great story. (author’s note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-77147-139-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

HOME

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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