Big ideas ably packed into little, bright packages.

HERE WE ARE

NOTES FOR LIVING ON PLANET EARTH

Addressing his infant son about what it means to live on Earth, the author/illustrator offers a mix of planetary facts, quotations, bits of advice, and illustrations.

The dedication page to 2-month-old Harlan includes, from the author, “These are the things / I think you need to know,” as well as a quote from J.M. Barrie about the importance of kindness. Jeffers’ fans will not be disappointed by the scant, lilting text and the boldly colored, stylized depictions of people, animals, and scenery. Themes include the physical planet, caring for the body, diversity of people and animals, time well spent, and caring for the planet—with kindness as an overarching element. The tone is unsentimental and conversational and laced with Jeffers’ trademark wryness: “We know a bit about the sea, but we’ll talk some more about that once you’ve learned to swim.” The facts disclosed are rudimentary, as is the vocabulary—but this entertains rather than bores, because readers are intermittently reminded that the book’s audience is a baby. The double-page spread illustrating the “shapes, sizes and colors” of people is amazingly inclusive of ethnicities, abilities, and lifestyles (though the depiction of what seems to be an Arctic Native in furs speaks to the difficulty of balancing inclusion against stereotype in such an effort). Scattered throughout are funny, never snarky asides—as when a parrot corrects the assertion that animals don’t talk and when part of the universe is labeled the “stratosthingy.”

Big ideas ably packed into little, bright packages. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-16789-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2017

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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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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