A likable ode to the perennial pleasures of autumn and friends.

FALL BALL

McCarty distills a crisp essence of late fall into a few familiar images: a bouncy ride home on the school bus, an impromptu game of football (the American kind) amid piles of leaves, the first flakes of snow in early dusk and the cozy warmth of the house after play.

A slightly diverse group of pink-cheeked and well-scrubbed primary-grade children (two girls and eight boys, including Bobby with his football and Jimmy, whose attempt at creating a tidy pile of leaves is certain to be thwarted) looks sweetly like an array of young hedgehogs. They have spiky hair and round bodies and are so kinetic that they seem to move in a tumble above the ground. Textured lines and muted colors in the children’s clothes and the flying leaves combine with the substantial creamy paper to make each lighthearted spread sweetly inviting, so tactile and alive that one can almost imagine the smell of autumn leaves in the air. The spare text, perfectly pitched for a preschool audience, offers just enough to support the illustrations and for pre-readers to revisit and retell the story. Even listeners without Bobby’s passion for football will find the afternoon’s outdoor recreation appealing, and adult readers may remember the delights of independent, child-organized group play.

A likable ode to the perennial pleasures of autumn and friends. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8050-9253-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2013

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Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable.

ANIMAL SHAPES

You think you know shapes? Animals? Blend them together, and you might see them both a little differently!

What a mischievous twist on a concept book! With wordplay and a few groan-inducing puns, Neal creates connections among animals and shapes that are both unexpected and so seemingly obvious that readers might wonder why they didn’t see them all along. Of course, a “lazy turtle” meeting an oval would create the side-splitting combo of a “SLOW-VAL.” A dramatic page turn transforms a deeply saturated, clean-lined green oval by superimposing a head and turtle shell atop, with watery blue ripples completing the illusion. Minimal backgrounds and sketchy, impressionistic detailing keep the focus right on the zany animals. Beginning with simple shapes, the geometric forms become more complicated as the book advances, taking readers from a “soaring bird” that meets a triangle to become a “FLY-ANGLE” to a “sleepy lion” nonagon “YAWN-AGON.” Its companion text, Animal Colors, delves into color theory, this time creating entirely hybrid animals, such as the “GREEN WHION” with maned head and whale’s tail made from a “blue whale and a yellow lion.” It’s a compelling way to visualize color mixing, and like Animal Shapes, it’s got verve. Who doesn’t want to shout out that a yellow kangaroo/green moose blend is a “CHARTREUSE KANGAMOOSE”?

Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0534-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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