A heartfelt, timely allegory celebrating diversity, bravery, and solidarity.

THE BARNABUS PROJECT

This epic tale of escape and liberation, set in a clandestine underground lab producing genetically engineered Perfect Pets, stars courageous Barnabus, half mouse, half elephant.

Along with a collection of creatures, Barnabus is a Failed Project, dubiously destined, according to cockroach pal Pip, to be “recycled.” Barnabus and his roommates—Light-Up Lois, Mushroom Sloth, and others—spend banal days imprisoned in bell jars, fed, poked and prodded by the Green Rubber Suits. With their fates sealed, Barnabus avows, “We need to escape!” Discovering that his elephantine trumpeting can break glass, Barnabus frees the others. The brave misfits, pursued by their creators and captors, escape through venting, emerging into another lab. The band works together to free a fellow captive, an enormous, cyclopian marine creature, releasing a flood of tank water that sweeps them out of the building’s depths and into the pet shop above the lab. The escaped company, discovering the wide world foretold by Pip, finds a lake, sunshine, grass, and trees: “a place that might be home.” The Fan brothers (Eric and Terry, joined for this project by Devin) generate copious precisely rendered, action-packed illustrations that capture the lab’s sinister labyrinth, the poignant features of the “failed” creatures, and moonlit cityscapes whose skyscraper “mountains” reach “all the way to the sky, lit with their own stars.”

A heartfelt, timely allegory celebrating diversity, bravery, and solidarity. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6326-0

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his...

GRUMPY MONKEY

It’s a wonderful day in the jungle, so why’s Jim Panzee so grumpy?

When Jim woke up, nothing was right: "The sun was too bright, the sky was too blue, and bananas were too sweet." Norman the gorilla asks Jim why he’s so grumpy, and Jim insists he’s not. They meet Marabou, to whom Norman confides that Jim’s grumpy. When Jim denies it again, Marabou points out that Jim’s shoulders are hunched; Jim stands up. When they meet Lemur, Lemur points out Jim’s bunchy eyebrows; Jim unbunches them. When he trips over Snake, Snake points out Jim’s frown…so Jim puts on a grimacelike smile. Everyone has suggestions to brighten his mood: dancing, singing, swinging, swimming…but Jim doesn’t feel like any of that. He gets so fed up, he yells at his animal friends and stomps off…then he feels sad about yelling. He and Norman (who regrets dancing with that porcupine) finally just have a sit and decide it’s a wonderful day to be grumpy—which, of course, makes them both feel a little better. Suzanne Lang’s encouragement to sit with your emotions (thus allowing them to pass) is nearly Buddhist in its take, and it will be great bibliotherapy for the crabby, cranky, and cross. Oscar-nominated animator Max Lang’s cartoony illustrations lighten the mood without making light of Jim’s mood; Jim has comically long arms, and his facial expressions are quite funny.

Though Jim may have been grumpy because a chimp’s an ape and not a monkey, readers will enjoy and maybe learn from his journey. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-553-53786-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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Never underestimate the feats an animal will brave in order to be reunited with their loved ones.

TRUMAN

A tiny tortoise discovers just how brave he is when his girl unexpectedly takes a bus headed away from home.

Truman, like his girl, Sarah, is quiet, “peaceful and pensive,” unlike the busy, noisy city outside their building’s window. In just the first few spreads, Reidy and Cummins manage to capture the close relationship between the girl and her pet, so it’s understandable that Truman should worry when he adds up the day’s mysterious clues: a big backpack, a large banana, a bow in Sarah’s hair, extra green beans in Truman’s dish, and, especially, Sarah boarding the No. 11 bus. He’s so worried that he decides to go after her, a daunting feat for a tortoise the size of a small doughnut. Cummins’ gouache, brush marker, charcoal, colored pencil, and digital illustrations marvelously convey both the big picture of Truman’s navigation of the house and his tortoise’s-eye view of things. And the ending, when Sarah arrives home in time to scoop him up before he slips under the front door, stuttering her amazement at his brave feats, is just right. Sarah and her mother have pale skin and straight, black hair; other city dwellers are diverse. Peaceful and pensive like Truman himself, this book charms; there’s just something uplifting and wonderful about the whole package.

Never underestimate the feats an animal will brave in order to be reunited with their loved ones. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1664-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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