Not since Peter Pan’s has a shadow commanded such well-deserved attention

SMOOT

A REBELLIOUS SHADOW

In the middle of a city filled with Old World stuccoed walls and tiled roofs, a boy’s shadow yearns to break free.

“If life is a book, then Smoot the Shadow had been reading the same yawn-colored page for seven and a half years.” The light-skinned boy connected to the protagonist—clad in shorts, jacket, and baseball cap—leads a rigid, mostly black-and-white life; he colors inside the lines. Smoot (a blend of “smudge” and “soot”?) finally breaks free. As the shadow wordlessly, gleefully skips rope, rides a carousel, and climbs a tree, the boy is ever watchful from the margins. Inspired, other shadows follow their dreams: a frog’s shadow turns into a prince, and a dragonfly’s breathes fire. Imagining unintended consequences were this to continue, Smoot quickly finds satisfying, child-sized solutions for his restless counterparts and reunites with his boy, whose own spark has been ignited. Cuevas’ plotline radiates freshness and celebrates the rewards of risk-taking. Smith has a keen understanding of the power of the contrast between blackness and color. Employing ink and watercolor, he skillfully exploits this dynamic to both foreground the silhouetted characters and, in concert with decisions about when to use frames or full bleeds and controlled lines or looser strokes, to underscore the distinctions between a constricted and unfettered existence.

Not since Peter Pan’s has a shadow commanded such well-deserved attention . (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-525-42969-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught...

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A PROBLEM?

A child struggles with the worry and anxiety that come with an unexpected problem.

In a wonderful balance of text and pictures, the team responsible for What Do You Do With an Idea (2014) returns with another book inspiring children to feel good about themselves. A child frets about a problem that won’t go away: “I wished it would just disappear. I tried everything I could to hide from it. I even found ways to disguise myself. But it still found me.” The spare, direct narrative is accompanied by soft gray illustrations in pencil and watercolor. The sepia-toned figure of the child is set apart from the background and surrounded by lots of white space, visually isolating the problem, which is depicted as a purple storm cloud looming overhead. Color is added bit by bit as the storm cloud grows and its color becomes more saturated. With a backpack and umbrella, the child tries to escape the problem while the storm swirls, awash with compass points scattered across the pages. The pages brighten into splashes of yellow as the child decides to tackle the problem head-on and finds that it holds promise for unlooked-for opportunity.

A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught situations, this belongs on the shelf alongside Molly Bang’s Sophie books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943-20000-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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Nice enough, but its twinkle is on the faint side.

TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE KID

A boy gets an unusual payoff after wishing on a star.

Sitting outside one night, Clyde notices a lone star in the sky. He recites the “Star light, star bright” incantation and makes a wish. Disappointed when it doesn’t come true, he returns home. But later, while he’s asleep, the star he’d wished on sneaks into his bedroom and makes a wish on him! Startled awake, Clyde wonders how to grant Star’s wish. He shares some ideas (and actual objects) with her: a game of checkers, tent camping, tossing a Frisbee, and walkie-talkies. Star likes them, but they’re not her wishes; Clyde confides there’s no one to enjoy them with—and wonders if perhaps Star had wished for a friend. No one will be surprised at what Clyde next confesses to Star. The pair winds up playing together and becoming besties. This is a sweet but thin and predictable story about making friends. Still, readers will appreciate meeting feisty, celestial Star. The author reaches for humor using colloquialisms (“freaked out”), and kids will like the comfortable familiarity that develops between the cheery protagonists. The colored-pencil illustrations are rendered in a limited palette of mostly dark blues and purples, appropriate to the nighttime setting. Star is a luminous, pale yellow with a white topknot and has a star-dappled aura around her. Purple-pj’d Clyde wears bunny slippers and presents White. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough, but its twinkle is on the faint side. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-399-17132-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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