A moving testimony to the process of navigating abrupt, painful change—and the life-altering impact of true friendship

HELEN'S BIRDS

This wordless graphic novel is surprisingly direct in its treatment of intergenerational friendship, grief, and hope.

Casson’s four-color illustrations—rendered in colored pencil, Photoshop, and pastel—gently take up Cassidy’s story of a mother and her young child who move into a new neighborhood and befriend an elderly neighbor: Helen. Panels of varying sizes trace the child’s friendship with Helen over what appears to be several years as they play cards, read together, and study the birds that visit Helen’s yard. One night, the child is awakened by sirens and flashing lights, silently conveyed through disorienting, large red circles splashed across the pages. From the window, the child sees Helen being loaded into an ambulance; within two pages, Helen’s house is for sale. The child observes workmen removing Helen’s bird feeder and birdbath before the house itself is demolished, but the child does not appear to process the grief triggered by Helen’s passing until discovering one of their playing cards in the construction rubble. Facing grief seems to empower the child to move forward and carry on Helen’s legacy, tenderly rescuing a bird’s nest from a bush on Helen’s old property. Soon, the neighborhood is bursting with bird song once more. The three main characters, and indeed all others excepting two brown-skinned passersby, have yellow skin that could be read here as white.

A moving testimony to the process of navigating abrupt, painful change—and the life-altering impact of true friendship . (Graphic novel. 6-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77306-038-5

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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A plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale.

A TRUE HOME

From the Heartwood Hotel series , Vol. 1

An orphan mouse unexpectedly arrives at Heartwood Hotel, which she hopes will become the home she’s seeking.

Mona’s never had a home for long. After a storm forces her to flee her latest forest shelter, she discovers an enormous tree with a heart carved into its trunk. When Mona presses the heart, a door opens, and she enters the lobby of Heartwood Hotel, where small forest critters hibernate, eat, and celebrate in safety. The kindhearted badger proprietor, Mr. Heartwood, takes pity on homeless Mona, allowing her to stay for the fall to assist the maid, Tilly, a red squirrel. Grateful to be at Heartwood, Mona strives to prove herself despite Tilly’s unfriendly attitude. Mona’s clever approaches with a wounded songbird, an anxious skunk, and a wayward bear win Mr. Heartwood’s approval. But when Mona accidentally breaks a rule, Tilly convinces her she will be fired. As Mona secretly leaves Heartwood, she discovers marauding wolves planning to crash Heartwood’s Snow Festival and devises a daring plan to save the place she regards as home. Charming anthropomorphic characters, humorous mishaps, and outside threats add to the drama. Delicate pencil illustrations reinforce Heartwood’s cozy home theme. A sequel, The Greatest Gift, publishes simultaneously.

A plucky mouse finds her true home in this warm, winning tale. (Animal fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-3161-1

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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