A picture book that will be embraced due to its successful handling of difficult themes.

THE TIGER WHO WOULD BE KING

A cautionary tale about the futility of war by the late American humorist receives a stunning visual interpretation from Yoon.

Violent chaos ensues when the eponymous tiger awakens one day and decides to challenge Leo the lion for the title “king of beasts.” The lion is unwilling to give up his power without a fight, which quickly involves every creature in the jungle. A wordless double gatefold at the center of the book shows various animals in the throes of aggressive action, while subsequent text explains that the animals are not certain about what they’re fighting for. The futility of war and the perils of a lust for power are the obvious messages here, but there’s a darkly humorous tone in the characterizations of both tiger and lion that undercuts potential for dull preaching. Furthermore, Thurber delivers a straightforward moral when all but the tiger die in the war: “You can’t very well be king of beasts if there aren’t any,” which overtly embraces and projects the intended meaning of his story. Yoon’s artistic achievement, however, is the king of this picture book’s triumphs. The limited palette of orange, green, white, and dark brown creates visually arresting spreads that fairly vibrate with energy despite the flat, print-inspired aesthetic.

A picture book that will be embraced due to its successful handling of difficult themes. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59270-182-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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