A thought-provoking conversation starter for art lovers of all ages.

BEFORE I GREW UP

This imagined story of artist Cucco captures the time before he “grew up and became an artist.”

After hearing about Cucco’s death in 2006, Miller—who had previously collaborated with Cucco on two children’s books—linked a series of Cucco’s paintings to tell this first-person story about the artist’s childhood. Weaving together these heretofore-unconnected oil paintings, many of them deeply atmospheric and enigmatic, results in a somewhat inscrutable narrative. Readers wanting something on the unconventional side may find it thrilling, and the book could serve as a compelling classroom writing prompt. One Hopper-esque painting depicts a man, seen from behind through an open door, sitting near a body of water; it is paired with text about a father who studied the “kind of light he said was inaccessible.” Another painting of a man floating in a blue sky reads: “Sometimes, I would dream that I could float into the sky like a bird.” This series of impressions—about Cucco’s childhood years, parents, moments in nature, dreams, life in the city before an eventual return to the country, and more—possesses a predominantly upbeat, if sometimes cryptic, tone. (One spread is about dreams that were “dark and scary” and features a more sinister, shadowy image.) The paintings are highly textured and richly colored, many showcasing a vivid, sunny yellow. All characters are White.

A thought-provoking conversation starter for art lovers of all ages. (Picture book. 6-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-59270-361-6

Page Count: 60

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Celebrate a truly accepting multicultural character.

LOLA LEVINE IS NOT MEAN!

From the Lola Levine series , Vol. 1

Brown introduces a smart, young protagonist with a multicultural background in this series opener for chapter-book readers.

Second-grader Lola Levine is half-Peruvian and half-Jewish; she is a skilled soccer player, a persuasive writer, and aspires to own a cat in the near future should her parents concede. During a friendly recess soccer match, Lola, playing goalie, defends an incoming ball by coming out of her box and accidentally fouls a classmate. And so Lola acquires the rhyming nickname Mean Lola Levine. Through Lola’s first-person narration, readers see clearly how her savvy and creativity come from her family: Dad, who paints, Mom, who writes, and a fireball younger brother. She also wears her bicultural identity easily. In her narration, her letters to her friends, and dialogue, Lola easily inserts such words as diario, tía, bubbe, and shalom. For dinner, the family eats matzo ball soup, Peruvian chicken, and flan. Interspersed throughout the story are references to all-star soccer athletes, from Brazilian master Pelé to Mia Hamm, Briana Scurry, and David Beckham. Dominguez’s black-and-white illustrations are cheery and appealing, depicting a long-haired Caucasian father and dark-skinned, black-haired mother. Typefaces that emulate penmanship appropriately differ from character to character: Lola’s is small and clean, her mother’s is tall and slanted, while Juan’s, the injured classmate, is sloppy and lacks finesse.

Celebrate a truly accepting multicultural character. (Fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-25836-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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NIGHTBIRD

There’s a monster in Sidwell, Massachusetts, that can only be seen at night or, as Twig reveals, if passersby are near her house.

It’s her older brother, James, born with wings just like every male in the Fowler line for the last 200 years. They were cursed by the Witch of Sidwell, left brokenhearted by their forebear Lowell Fowler. Twig and James are tired of the secret and self-imposed isolation. Lonely Twig narrates, bringing the small town and its characters to life, intertwining events present and past, and describing the effects of the spell on her fractured family’s daily life. Longing for some normalcy and companionship, she befriends new-neighbor Julia while James falls in love with Julia’s sister, Agate—only to learn they are descendants of the Witch. James and Agate seem as star-crossed as their ancestors, especially when the townspeople attribute a spate of petty thefts and graffiti protesting the development of the woods to the monster and launch a hunt. The mix of romance and magic is irresistible and the tension, compelling. With the help of friends and through a series of self-realizations and discoveries, Twig grows more self-assured. She is certain she knows how to change the curse. In so doing, Twig not only changes James’ fate, but her own, for the first time feeling the fullness of family, friends and hope for the future.

Enchanting. (Magical realism. 9-12)

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-38958-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Wendy Lamb/Random

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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