SISTERS FIRST

A paean to sisterhood by the former first daughters.

Although the co-authors are twins, their rhyming, first-person text is in the voice of a girl praying for a baby sister: “Please make her kind, with an enormous heart, / clever too, and very smart.” Her wishes are prompted by her observations of other sisters, whom the accompanying cartoon art depicts as diverse pairs of girls, including two brown-skinned children with wavy brown hair and a white-appearing girl holding the hand of a small child who appears black, with dark skin and afro-puffs. The narrator is blonde with light skin, and her sister is born with a similar complexion but reddish-brown hair. The big sister is chagrined to realize that having a baby sister isn’t all she’d expected, but frustration abates when she reflects on her earlier prayer and thinks, “If kindness was what I was asking of you, / I needed to be kind and patient, too.” As the baby grows, the sisters achieve the loving, close bond the narrator prayed for. While the core sentiment might well move readers, the bland art stops short of expanding or enriching the text, and the writing both falters in cadence and descends into cliché, as in lines reading “And with time…we found a rhythm, your hand locked in mine. / We sang duets and danced in rain and sunshine.”

Not a first pick. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-53478-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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Preachy and predictable.

RUBYLICIOUS

From the Pinkalicious series

Pinkalicious is excited to add the 100th rock to her rock collection.

Her brother, Peter, is not impressed. He thinks the rock looks dirty and that it isn’t special at all. When the siblings try to rub the rock clean, though, something wonderful happens: A magical figure emerges in a cloud of red smoke. Rather than ask her name, Pinkalicious and Peter tell her they will call her Rocky. Rocky accepts the new name and nervously says that she can grant the children a wish. But every time the sister and brother make a wish, Rocky initially grants it and then talks them out of it. When Peter and Pinkalicious wish for a gigantic mountain of sweets, for instance, a timorous Rocky shows them how eating so much sugar harms their bodies. When the children wish that they could fly, Rocky shows them how dangerous flying can be. When they wish to live in a castle, Rocky gives them a palace that is too large and cold to be any fun. In the end, Pinkalicious and Peter decide that the best wish they can make isn’t for themselves but for Rocky—a decision that leads to even more magical results. This latest series installment underwhelms. In addition to the arbitrary plot and wooden dialogue, Pinkalicious and Peter come across as maddeningly entitled. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Preachy and predictable. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-305521-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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A visually striking, compelling recollection.

FROM THE TOPS OF THE TREES

The author recounts a formative childhood experience that continues to inspire her today.

Born to Hmong refugees, Kalia has only ever known the confines of the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand. Even while playing with her cousins, reminders of the hardships of their life are always present. She overhears the aunties sharing their uncertainty and fear of the future. They are a people with no home country and are still trying to find peace. Kalia asks her father why they live behind a gate and wonders what lies beyond the fences that surround the camp. The next day they climb a tall tree, and he shows her the vast expanse around them, from familiar camp landmarks to distant mountains “where the sky meets earth.” This story of resilience and generational hope is told in an expressive, straightforward narrative style. The simplicity of the text adds a level of poignancy that moves readers to reflection. The layered and heavily textured illustrations complement the text while highlighting the humanity of the refugees and providing a quiet dignity to camp life. The militarylike color palette of olive greens, golden yellows, and rich browns reinforces the guarded atmosphere but also represents the transitional period from winter to spring, a time ripe with anticipation and promise.

A visually striking, compelling recollection. (author's note, glossary, map.) (Picture book/memoir. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-8130-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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