Kirkus Book Reviews

Kirkus Starred Books

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The Bear's Garden book
Picture book
5.2
My Bison book
Picture book
4.8
A Way with Wild Things book
Picture book
5.3
Sulwe book
Picture book
5.2
Going Down Home with Daddy book
Picture book
5.4
The Undefeated book
Picture book
5.4
New Kid book
Chapter book
5.8
The Bell Rang book
Picture book
4.9
Animal Shapes book
Board book
Max and Marla Are Going on a Trip
Written & illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
“A delightful lesson in the joy of living in the moment.”
Published Jun 16, 2020
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-5

From the #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator of She Persisted comes a Max and Marla story about being present and appreciating the world around us.

School is out for the summer, and Max and Marla are off to Australia! Max has always wanted to see koalas, after all. He makes sure to pack his camera for the trip, so that he can capture every moment and remember this vacation. Off they head by air and by sea, with Max looking for just the perfect shot along the way. But when he keeps missing the amazing sights while focusing his lens, Marla knows that she needs to step in.

In this final story in the Max and Marla quartet, the two friends learn that being together and enjoying their trip makes for the best memories after all!

Our Favorite Day of the Year
Written by A. E. Ali & illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell
Starred Review
"The dual focus on friendship and diversity makes this choice a winner." - Kirkus Reviews
Published Jun 1, 2020
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

A heartwarming picture book following a group of boys from different backgrounds throughout the school year as they become the best of friends.

Musa’s feeling nervous about his first day of school. He’s not used to being away from home and he doesn’t know any of the other kids in his class. And when he meets classmates Moisés, Mo, and Kevin, Musa isn’t sure they’ll have much in common. But over the course of the year, the four boys learn more about each other, the holidays they celebrate, their favorite foods, and what they like about school. The more they share with each other, the closer they become, until Musa can’t imagine any better friends.

In this charming story of friendship and celebrating differences, young readers can discover how entering a new friendship with an open mind and sharing parts of yourself brings people together. And the calendar of holidays at the end of the book will delight children as they identify special events they can celebrate with friends throughout the year.

The Bear's Garden
Written by Marcie Colleen & illustrated by Alison Oliver
Starred Review
"This tale of urban renewal shows how one person with an imagination, a little dirt, and a few seeds can transform a concrete village into something beautiful."
Published Mar 24, 2020
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-7

Inspired by the true story of a community garden in Brooklyn, New York, The Bear’s Garden by Marcie Colleen is a testament to how imagination and dedication can transform communities and create beauty for everyone in unexpected places.

A little girl sees an empty lot in a city and imagines what it can be.

She sees a place to grow, a place to play, and a place to love.

With the help of her stuffed bear, the girl brings her community together to create a beautiful garden.

An Imprint Book

An Ordinary Day
Written by Elana K. Arnold & illustrated by Elizabet Vukovic
"Emotions are clearly conveyed by the appealing characters, who are rendered in a simplified graphic style."
Published Mar 10, 2020
picture book
Recommend Ages: 0-8

An ordinary day in an ordinary neighborhood turns out to be quite extraordinary in this moving story about the circle of life.

It’s an average day in the neighborhood—children play, roses are watered, and a crow watches over it all. But then two visitors arrive at two houses, one to help a family say hello to a new baby and one to help a family say goodbye to a beloved pet. This sensitive picture book takes a gentle look at life, death, the bonds of family, and the extraordinary moments that make ordinary days so special.

Joni: The Lyrical Life of Joni Mitchell
Written & illustrated by Selina Alko
"Influenced by the world around and within her, Mitchell “painted with words,” turning her words and feelings into songs that poignantly captured her time’s sadness, beauty, love, hope, and yearning for freedom, and Alko’s poetic text and vibrant illustrations effectively convey this."
Published Feb 25, 2020
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

“Colors burst across each page, with layers of collage-work emphasizing the richness of Mitchell’s influences and imagination. Will speak to readers just starting their own exploration of artistic expression.” —Booklist (starred review)

Celebrate the captivating life of Joni Mitchell, the world-famous songbird who used her music to ignite and inspire an entire generation, in this stunning picture book biography from award-winning author and illustrator Selina Alko.

Joni Mitchell painted with words.

Sitting at her piano or strumming the guitar, she turned the words into songs.

The songs were like brushstrokes on a canvas, saying things that were not only happy or sad but true.

But before composing more than two hundred songs, Joni was a young girl from a town on the Canadian prairie, where she learned to love dancing, painting, birdsong, and piano. As she grew up into an artist, Joni took her strong feelings—feelings of love and frustration, and the turbulence that came with being a young woman—and wrote them into vivid songs.

Brought to life by Selina Alko’s rainbow collages and lyrical language, this heartfelt portrait of a feminist and folk icon is perfect for parents, children, and music lovers everywhere.

Back matter includes a letter from the author and Joni’s full discography.

“An inspired and creative ode to the inimitable Joni Mitchell.” —Kirkus

“Layered mixed-media collages featuring cut paper, found images, and colorful smears of paint effectively evoke the richly rendered emotional landscapes of Mitchell’s songwriting.” —Publishers Weekly

A Home for Goddesses and Dogs
Written & illustrated by Leslie Connor
"An almost-orphan and a rescue dog share lots of heart in a winsome coming-of-age story."
Published Feb 25, 2020
chapter book
Recommend Ages: 10-14

A unique masterpiece about loss, love, and the world’s best bad dog, from award-winning author Leslie Connor, author of the National Book Award finalist The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle.

It’s a life-altering New Year for thirteen-year-old Lydia when she uproots to a Connecticut farm to live with her aunt following her mother’s death.

Aunt Brat and her jovial wife, Eileen, and their ancient live-in landlord, Elloroy, are welcoming―and a little quirky. Lydia’s struggle for a sense of belonging in her new family is highlighted when the women adopt a big yellow dog just days after the girl’s arrival.

Wasn’t one rescue enough?

Lydia is not a dog person―and this one is trouble! He is mistrustful and slinky. He pees in the house, escapes into the woods, and barks at things unseen. His new owners begin to guess about his unknown past.

Meanwhile, Lydia doesn’t want to be difficult―and she does not mean to keep secrets―but there are things she’s not telling…

Like why the box of “paper stuff” she keeps under her bed is so important…

And why that hole in the wall behind a poster in her room is getting bigger…

And why something she took from the big yellow dog just might be the key to unraveling his mysterious past―but at what cost?

Award-winning author Leslie Connor crafts a story that sings about loss and love and finding joy in new friendships and a loving family, along with the world’s best bad dog. This uplifting story about recovery features strong female characters, an adorable dog, and the girl who comes to love him.

The Bold, Brave Bunny
Written by Beth Ferry & illustrated by Chow Hon Lam
"Teetu braves a journey filled with new sights that fuel his imagination. Writing and sketching, Teetu creates a book of his own inspired by the curious forest creatures he encounters and the inky, twisty trees that surround them."
Published Feb 11, 2020
picture book
Recommend Ages: 44-8

A Junior Library Guild Selection

“An enjoyable tale of the marvels of adventuring and the comfort of home.” ―Kirkus Reviews

Hop along with Teetu, the bold, brave bunny, as he finds his way in this imaginative tale from New York Times bestselling author Beth Ferry (Stick and Stone) that reminds us that it’s splendid to see the world, but that it’s even more wonderful to go home, and share it with the ones you love.

B is for brave.

B is for bold.

B is not only for…bunnies.

After his brothers and sisters ruin his favorite alphabet book, Teetu the bunny has had enough of his big bunny family! When he sneaks off into the night, what he discovers is more marvelous than he ever dreamed.

He sees animals and trees and beauty and moonlight, and puts his adventures into a new book he creates all by himself. But soon Teetu tires of being alone, and just as it gets to be too much…a big fluffy surprise comes to save the day!

This heartwarming picture book from Beth Ferry and debut illustrator Chow Hon Lam makes for a perfect Easter and year-round gift. Plus, hidden animal surprises in the art will delight readers as they discover them in every repeat reading.

Pitter Pattern
Written & illustrated by Joyce Hesselberth
"The text and essential pictures offer bountiful opportunities for reader interaction, whether one-on-one or in a group setting. Young ones can verbally identify or point to their discoveries or participate in rhythmic clapping and repetitive dance moves.
Published Feb 11, 2020
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Patterns are everywhere! How many can you find?

This gorgeously illustrated book from Joyce Hesselberth, the creator of the acclaimed Mapping Sam, expertly introduces readers to basic patterns in nature, music, sports, art, language, and math. Pitter Pattern is an exceptional mix of fiction and nonfiction perfect for home as well as classroom sharing.

Pitter, pitter, pat! Pitter, pitter, pat! Hey, it’s a pitter, pitter, pattern!

Lu and her friends love spotting patterns in their daily activities. Lu learns that patterns can be found at soccer practice, during her piano lessons, in dance class, at snack time, and even at the park! How many patterns can you spot as Lu goes about her week?

Patterns are an important building block of preschool and early elementary education, and Pitter Pattern includes examples of patterns found in music, weather, time, play, shapes, nature, math, and language. The accessible and playful illustrations feature additional patterns for engaged readers to discover. An expert blend of fiction and nonfiction, this beautiful and innovative character-driven picture book is an ideal read-aloud for classrooms, family story times, and for fans of Hervé Tullet, Lois Ehlert, Steve Jenkins, and Joyce Sidman. Includes backmatter about the patterns in the book.

Sunny
Written & illustrated by Celia Krampien
"Following a “most people would say…but not Sunny” pattern, Krampien creates a story around one character’s ability to find the bright sides of bleak situations."
Published Feb 11, 2020
picture book
Recommend Ages: 4-8

Most people would say there is nothing good about trudging to school on a rainy day.

Most people would say that being carried away by the wind and dropped into the middle of a tumultuous sea is a very bad sort of situation.

No, most people wouldn’t like that at all.

But Sunny isn’t most people. Sunny likes to look on the bright side. And when things get exceedingly bleak?

Well, isn’t that what friends are for?

From debut author/artist Celia Krampien comes an unforgettable, transcendent story about the true power of optimism.

Sloth Went
Written by Adam Lehrhaupt & illustrated by Benson Shum
“Extremely endearing.”
Published Feb 9, 2020
picture book
Recommend Ages: 3-6

This hilarious picture book is about a sloth on the go. A sloth who is . . . very slowly . . . making his way to a major milestone: potty training!

Today is Sloth’s big day. He’s excited. But he’s also nervous.

What if something happens? What if NOTHING happens?

Sloth Went is a book about poop. But it’s also an adventure story about facing your fears, gaining independence, and learning to do what you have to. Even if, as in Sloth’s case, it takes a little while to get there.

Also included: back matter with the amazing true story of how sloths poop!



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