The book reaches for inspiring but stalls out at bland

IT TAKES A VILLAGE

Although it shares a title with Clinton’s 1996 work calling for a social commitment to children’s welfare, this picture book offers just 16 sentences spread over 40 pages illustrated with Frazee’s customarily humanistic detail.

The sentences don’t begin to attempt a narrative, amounting to little more than a sequence of platitudes: “Sometimes it takes a child // to make a village. // We all have a place in the village, a job to do, / and a lot to learn. // Kids don’t come with instructions. / But neither do grown-ups!” The illustrations, however, do provide a visual storyline, starting with three kids—one black, one Asian, and one white—who look up at a bare tree, then talk to their grown-ups, who talk to more people, leading to the community’s coming together to build an elaborate play structure beneath what turns out to be a cherry tree. In choosing this particular, child-friendly narrative, the illustrations miss opportunities. The lines “Every family needs help sometimes. Kindness and caring / and sharing matter” are illustrated with pictures of children sharing out snacks for the work crew rather than images of meaningful sharing across class divides, for instance. Frazee's cast shows her characteristically ebullient attention to inclusivity: a diversity of ages, races, and family constellations can be discerned, and one character uses a wheelchair. However, readers looking for ethnic or faith-based attire will find none.

The book reaches for inspiring but stalls out at bland . (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3087-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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