A heartfelt if rocky read-aloud.

THE BENCH

The titular bench, in several iterations, becomes a touchstone fixture in the lives of several father-and-son pairings.

The text is related in the voice of a loving partner who is mostly off page as they address the father figure who appears in every picture along with his son. In all but the first and last pictures, which depict a White, redhaired, bearded man and his offspring, each father-son pairing is different, as is the bench and its location. Some benches are clearly in public places (a park, a bus stop), while others are in what appear to be residences or backyards; most are ambiguously situated, allowing readers to reach their own conclusions as to where each father-son pair is. What is constant is the love between them, whether the tutu-clad father and his similarly attired son, both with light brown skin, using a bench to stretch; the Black father and babe enjoying a sun-dappled nap; or the Sikh father cheering his son’s soccer exploits. While Robinson’s painterly illustrations are characteristically beautiful, the text from Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, is less accomplished. Written in abcb rhyming quatrains, it often struggles for rhyme and scansion, sometimes to tortuous effect: “You feel happiness, sorrow / One day be heartbroken. / You’ll tell him ‘I love you’ / Those words always spoken.”

A heartfelt if rocky read-aloud. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-43451-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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Exciting artwork paired with disappointingly dull text.

KINDNESS GROWS

Rhyming verses about kindness using a consistent metaphor of widening cracks versus blooming plants are amplified by cutouts on each page.

The art and layout are spectacular, from the cover through the double-page spreads near the end. Racially diverse toddlers are shown engaging in various moods and behaviors, some of which create unhappiness and some of which lead to friendship and happiness. Every page’s color palette and composition perfectly complement the narrative. The initial verso shows two children in aggressive stances, backgrounded by a dark, partly moonlit sky. Between them is a slender, crooked cutout. The large-type text reads: “It all / starts / with a / crack / that we can hardly see. / It happens when we shout / or if we disagree.” The recto shows two children in sunlight, with one offering a pretty leaf to the other, and the rhyme addresses the good that grows from kindness. In this image, the crooked die cut forms the trunk of a tiny sapling. Until the final double-page spreads, the art follows this clever setup: dark deeds and a crack on the left, and good deeds and a growing tree on the right. Unfortunately, the text is far from the equal of the art: It is banal and preachy, and it does not even scan well without some effort on the part of whomever is reading it. Still, the youngest children will solemnly agree with the do’s and don’ts, and they may decide to memorize a page or two.

Exciting artwork paired with disappointingly dull text. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68010-229-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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