Blown Away by Rob Biddulph
Penguin Blue has a brand new kite but when he flies it, it lifts him right off the ice and up into the air. Two other penguins try to help and get swept along too. Wilbur the harp seal tries to catch them and joins the group flying along. Blue calls out for help from a polar bear and then Clive is riding along too, his boat and all. They are finally dropped on a lush warm jungle isle where they all agree it is way too hot. Blue has a great solution though, it will just take Clive’s boat, leaves and vines and one good gust of wind that is provided by the elephants on the island. Soon the group are back in their icy home, but there is one stowaway from the island who now needs to figure out how to get back to the warmth of the jungle.
This romp of a picture book is filled with a positive feel throughout. Each new challenge is playfully presented and merrily dealt with through clever solutions. The text rhymes and creates a jaunty cheer that makes this book great fun to share aloud. The rhyming story is written very strongly with a great story arc that solidly supports the humor. This is a book that is immensely satisfying to read.
The design of the book is stellar with playful word design and placement that enhances the strong illustrations. The book is beautifully illustrated with images filled with strong graphic elements, deep colors and also small playful touches. Children will enjoy lingering over the illustrations and spotting the penguins waiting for the bus on an ice floe and the bear losing his map immediately. The combination of strong vivid illustrations and small details make for a book that has its own unique vibe.
A great read-aloud for any penguin story time, this picture book will be enjoyed by preschoolers looking for a complete and playful story. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
King for a Day by Rukhsana Khan, illustrated by Christiane Kromer
It is Basant in the city of Lahore, Pakistan and Malik has only made one kite to use in the kite battles over the city. Malik is still sure of himself though, eager to show how fast his Falcon kite is. Malik is especially interested in teaching the bully who lives next door a lesson for all of the times he’s said horrible things to Malik and his sister. He also dreams of being the king of Basant, the best kite fighter in the city. Malik spends his day freeing other kites by cutting their strings, and at the end of the day he has a pile of kites at his feet. Then the neighborhood bully emerges again and tries to take a kite from a little girl, but Malik uses his new status as King to solve the problem.
Khan has captured a unique festival in Pakistan that is vivid, visual and offers children the ability to take on the city for a day. Malik sits in a wheelchair throughout the book, but it is never mentioned in the text. This quiet acceptance of a disability adds power to the idea that Basant is a holiday for everyone and that all abilities and ages can participate. Khan has a nice touch with the kite battles, creating drama by sharing details but also making sure that the story is fast-paced and interesting.
Kromer’s illustrations are a beautiful mix of paper art and textiles. Using textiles from the region brings in the deep colors and textures. The paper arts capture the crispness of the kites in the sky and also the beauty of the people. The mix of the two has a richness that suits the subject.
Celebrate Basant with this picture book that offers a glimpse of the Pakistani culture through the eyes of a young boy. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from digital copy received from Edelweiss.
Red Kite, Blue Kite by Ji-li Jiang, illustrated by Greg Ruth
Based on the true story of a family friend, this book tells the story of a father and son separated during the Cultural Revolution in China. Tai Shan and his father, Baba, loved to fly kites together from the roof of their home in their crowded city. Then bad times come and the schools are closed. Baba is sent to a labor camp and Tai Shan is sent to life in a small village with Granny Wang. Both Tai Shan and his father continue to fly their kites, using them as a signal to one another and a way to maintain contact. Eventually, Baba is taken further away to another labor camp where they cannot communicate with kites. All that can be done is to wait until Baba is free again and their kites can soar together once more.
This picture book will be best understood by older children. There is no need to have a background in Chinese history to understand this book because the story is so universal. The use of kites as imagery of freedom and connection works particularly well, especially in the ending which is particularly uplifting after the tension and sorrow of the rest of the tale. Jiang writes in prose that is filled with the emotion of the time. He writes with deep compassion and doesn’t shy away from the pain that fills Tai Shan’s days separated from his father.
Ruth’s illustrations capture the mood of the story very effectively. He moves from bright golds and oranges in the city to the dull colors of khaki and earth when the two are separated. The color scheme is only alleviated by the pop of color from their kites. When the two are together again, the color begins to return to the landscape.
This is a striking and universal look at families that are torn apart by war and the haunted time they spend apart. Appropriate for ages 6-9.
Reviewed from library copy.