CATFISH KATE AND THE SWEET SWAMP BAND

When Catfish Kate plays her banjo in the moonlight, the sky fills with giant musical notes and the girl musicians of the swamp chime in. Page by page, Kate’s band expands as newt, snake, bugs and gator, sporting gender-identifying ruffles, gather to jam: “Hum strum / rattle-rattle / tootle-ootle croon / scritch-scratch / zing zang / underneath the moon.” Unfortunately, Skink and his Skunktail Boys have come to the swamp that night to read quietly (The Nose Knows and Stinker Belle), and the “tootle-ootle croon” does not charm them. When a “squabble, bicker, differ, feud” ensues, Catfish Kate proposes a compromise (“Psst, what’s a compromise? I don’t know, do you?” asks one skunk). She angrily suggests that the Skunk Boys stuff cattail fluff in their ears to muffle the “noise” of her sweet swamp music, they calmly acquiesce and peaceful coexistence is thus achieved. While the story feels slight and the resolution oddly one-sided for a book about compromise, Smith’s visually cacophonous, roughly hewn watercolor-and-ink cartoons are nothing if not energetic, and the singsong rhyme will have swamp toes a-tapping. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4169-4026-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life.

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BE YOU!

An inspirational picture book offers life advice for readers who want to be themselves.

Replete with sparkling, often quirky illustrations of children living their best lives, this book is a gorgeous guidebook for those seeking encouragement while encountering life’s challenges. The children featured—a racially diverse group ranging from infants to preschoolers—cheerfully navigate the various injunctions that flow through the text: “Be curious.…Be adventurous.…Be persistent.…Be kind.” What is remarkable about the book is that even though the instructions and the brief sentences explaining them are at times vague, the illustrations expand on them in ways readers will find endearing and uplifting. Those depicting painful or challenging moments are especially effective. The “Be persistent” double-page spread shows a child in a boat on stormy seas; it’s rich with deep blues as it emphasizes the energy of wind and rain and struggle in the face of challenge. Together with the accompanying repeated phrase “Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop,” this spread arrests readers. By contrast, the “Be kind. Be understanding” spread simply presents two children’s faces, one cast in blue and the other in gold, but the empathy that Reynolds conveys is similarly captivating. While there is no plot to pull readers through the pages, the book provides rich fodder for caregivers to use as teachable moments, both informally and in classroom settings.

Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-57231-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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JAZZ BABY

A snappy rhyming text celebrates an extended family’s joyous gyrations to the jazz spinning on the turntable. From waking to sleep, Baby’s right in the thick of it, as siblings, grandparents and cousins move and groove: “So they BOOM-BOOM-BOOM / and they HIP-HIP-HOP / and the bouncin’ baby boogies with a BOP-BOP-BOP.” Wheeler’s verse scans beautifully and begs to be read aloud—danced to, even—making this a fine choice for preschool and kindergarten story times. Christie’s bold, double-paged gouache compositions locate this colorfully garbed, expressively hip family within an equally vibrant community. As Baby’s big dark eyes get glassy with fatigue, the party winds down. “Daddy sings blues. / Mama sings sweet. / While that snoozy-woozy baby . . . / . . . sleeps deep, deep, deep.” Exultant and infectious, from the red-and-yellow-striped endpapers to the final “OH YEAH!” (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-15-202522-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2007

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