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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Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone.

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THE CHRISTMAS PIG

A 7-year-old descends into the Land of the Lost in search of his beloved comfort object.

Jack has loved Dur Pig long enough to wear the beanbag toy into tattered shapelessness—which is why, when his angry older stepsister chucks it out the car window on Christmas Eve, he not only throws a titanic tantrum and viciously rejects the titular replacement pig, but resolves to sneak out to find DP. To his amazement, the Christmas Pig offers to guide him to the place where all lost Things go. Whiffs of childhood classics, assembled with admirable professionalism into a jolly adventure story that plays all the right chords, hang about this tale of loss and love. Along with family drama, Rowling stirs in fantasy, allegory, and generous measures of social and political commentary. Pursued by the Land’s cruel and monstrous Loser, Jack and the Christmas Pig pass through territories from the Wastes of the Unlamented, where booger-throwing Bad Habits roam, to the luxurious City of the Missed for encounters with Hope, Happiness, and Power (a choleric king who rejects a vote that doesn’t go his way). A joyful reunion on the Island of the Beloved turns poignant, but Christmas Eve being “a night for miracles and lost causes,” perhaps there’s still a chance (with a little help from Santa) for everything to come right? In both the narrative and Field’s accomplished, soft-focus illustrations, the cast presents White.

Plays to Rowling’s fan base; equally suited for gifting and reading aloud or alone. (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-79023-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2021

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For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Newbery Honor Book

  • Coretta Scott King Book Award Winner

  • National Book Award Winner

BROWN GIRL DREAMING

A multiaward–winning author recalls her childhood and the joy of becoming a writer.

Writing in free verse, Woodson starts with her 1963 birth in Ohio during the civil rights movement, when America is “a country caught / / between Black and White.” But while evoking names such as Malcolm, Martin, James, Rosa and Ruby, her story is also one of family: her father’s people in Ohio and her mother’s people in South Carolina. Moving south to live with her maternal grandmother, she is in a world of sweet peas and collards, getting her hair straightened and avoiding segregated stores with her grandmother. As the writer inside slowly grows, she listens to family stories and fills her days and evenings as a Jehovah’s Witness, activities that continue after a move to Brooklyn to reunite with her mother. The gift of a composition notebook, the experience of reading John Steptoe’s Stevie and Langston Hughes’ poetry, and seeing letters turn into words and words into thoughts all reinforce her conviction that “[W]ords are my brilliance.” Woodson cherishes her memories and shares them with a graceful lyricism; her lovingly wrought vignettes of country and city streets will linger long after the page is turned.

For every dreaming girl (and boy) with a pencil in hand (or keyboard) and a story to share. (Memoir/poetry. 8-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-399-25251-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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