Not really enough of a story for telling a story about storytelling

LOOK! I WROTE A BOOK!

(AND YOU CAN TOO!)

From inspiration to finished tome, a child author demystifies the process.

Part tongue-in-cheek commentary and part literary DIY, this book features witty tips and tricks for generating ideas, turning them into stories, and then publicizing your work, all based on the narrator’s own, albeit naïve, experiences. Starting with “a Good Idea,” the child guides aspiring authors through choosing a title, crafting the parts of a story, and inventing an ending, even covering the crucial revision process. Particularly helpfully, the narrator explains how fiction means “you made it up” and nonfiction means “you ABSOLUTELY didn’t make it up.” Some of the advice, however, falls a bit short: In 2019, a traditional, gender- and age-based interest in story content seems limiting (since grandmas can like dump trucks and tractors, too!); also, young children can indeed handle big words through context clues and illustrations. It’s unclear at times whether this advice is satirical or serious. The mixed-media illustrations are a bit too simplistic and caricatured in style, though they do present a diverse cast of characters. And yet the self-referential cover image seems to indicate the book’s obsession with its own cleverness. The protagonist appears to be a child of color, with medium-brown skin and straight brown pigtails that stick straight out.

Not really enough of a story for telling a story about storytelling . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-55818-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

HOME

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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