A low-key, atmospheric encounter a-glimmer with verbal and visual grace notes.

MUSIC FOR MISTER MOON

In making amends for a thoughtless act, a shy young cellist finds just the right audience.

So afflicted with performance anxiety that her parents’ mere suggestion that she might play in an orchestra one day makes her flushed and sweaty, Harriet Henry retreats to her room and transforms it into a small, isolated house in which she can practice unheard. But when the teacup she throws through a window to silence an annoying owl knocks the moon down from the sky, Harriet—introducing herself, with a deft bit of gender fluidity, as “Hank”—makes a wagon and responds to the wishes of “Mister Moon” by wheeling him first to the hat maker (a bear) for a warm hat, then down to the lake to listen to water and a distant bell buoy (“There is so much music down below,” he comments. “It is so quiet up in the sky”), then finally back to the sky to play for the moon, who has promised not to cheer or even watch. The illustrations, as spare and harmonious as the prose, are pale constructs of lightly applied pencil over misty ink monoprints featuring a large, gently glowing moon with human features, a comically tiny wagon, and a serious-looking, pigtailed child (white, like her parents) barely if at all taller than her instrument. The ability of Harriet/Hank to remake her surroundings at will not only enhances the episode’s dreamlike quality, but should also strike a chord in retiring or introspective readers.

A low-key, atmospheric encounter a-glimmer with verbal and visual grace notes. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4160-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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