With too much attention toward outward threats, the knight neglects to see those from within—a timeless message but also one...

THE WALL IN THE MIDDLE OF THE BOOK

A wall separates the two sides of a book. But what happens when there is danger on the side that’s supposed to be “safe?”

When a brick falls from the wall, a cheerful, ladder-carrying knight arrives to repair it from the verso side. On the other, recto side of the wall, a small team of angry-looking animals—a rhino, a tiger, and a gorilla—arrives to investigate. The brick wall straddles the book’s gutter from the ground at the very bottom of the spread and breaks the frame skyward, blocking those on each side from viewing the other. Using first-person narration, the knight tells readers that their side of the book is “safe” and that the other side is not. But, when the illustrations slowly reveal what lurks on the knight’s side, the knight’s theory doesn’t quite hold water. Or does it? Agee’s expert interplay between words and pictures invites readers to question the narrator’s reliability. Every illustration is a double-page spread (even the unfolded book jacket), and Agee’s signature washed-out color palette and expressive cartoon character designs shine. Animal and human characters alike break the fourth wall to communicate with readers through facial expressions, brilliantly accentuating the contradictory word-picture dynamic. The knight presents white.

With too much attention toward outward threats, the knight neglects to see those from within—a timeless message but also one that, in 2018, will surely strike a chord with many readers. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-55545-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history.

THE SCARECROW

Ferry and the Fans portray a popular seasonal character’s unlikely friendship.

Initially, the protagonist is shown in his solitary world: “Scarecrow stands alone and scares / the fox and deer, / the mice and crows. / It’s all he does. It’s all he knows.” His presence is effective; the animals stay outside the fenced-in fields, but the omniscient narrator laments the character’s lack of friends or places to go. Everything changes when a baby crow falls nearby. Breaking his pole so he can bend, the scarecrow picks it up, placing the creature in the bib of his overalls while singing a lullaby. Both abandon natural tendencies until the crow learns to fly—and thus departs. The aabb rhyme scheme flows reasonably well, propelling the narrative through fall, winter, and spring, when the mature crow returns with a mate to build a nest in the overalls bib that once was his home. The Fan brothers capture the emotional tenor of the seasons and the main character in their panoramic pencil, ballpoint, and digital compositions. Particularly poignant is the close-up of the scarecrow’s burlap face, his stitched mouth and leaf-rimmed head conveying such sadness after his companion goes. Some adults may wonder why the scarecrow seems to have only partial agency, but children will be tuned into the problem, gratified by the resolution.

A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247576-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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