Publishers Weekly 2022 Starred Reviews

Congratulations to our authors and illustrators whose books have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly!

Baby Squeaks
By Anne Hunter
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735269095 | Tundra Books
“The gift of gab proves deeply funny in Hunter’s (Where’s Baby?) earnest portrait of early language acquisition. Baby Mouse starts out as a quiet infant, but after the diminutive mammal utters a first word, then a second, language flows suddenly and inexorably forth. Speech balloons of varying sizes, comically filled with typewritten lines that repeat only the word “squeak,” emanate from Baby Mouse as the youth is fed, carried, and tucked in to bed. When Mama, seemingly in need of a moment’s peace, places her child outside their tree home, the mouse is unfazed. “Baby talked and talked . . . and talked,” encountering various animals who turn tail, and finally, a young fawn who simply conks out in the face of Baby Mouse’s chatter. In a full spread, elegant ballpoint pen and colored pencil images – which follow finely cross-hatched, grayscale figures atop a sky blue background – show Baby Mouse relaxing upon the snoozing fawn’s back, an enormous word balloon floating above them. When Mama Mouse awakens, panicked, from a nap of her own, Baby Mouse’s squeaks lead her straight to her child’s location – gently instigating a moment of silent succor, and a final image that honors, without judgment, both parties’ realities and needs.” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

My Self, Your Self
By Esmé Shapiro
48 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9781774880234 | Tundra Books
“Shapiro envelops big ideas within this whimsically affirming exploration of individuality and selfhood. An anthropomorphic creature in brown boots and a “very special sprout hat” invokes the tone of a beloved elder, stating, “I have been with my self for a very long time.” As the protagonist encounters various forest beings, including a mushroom and a snail, it ponders “What is a self?” and asks if it’s “What we put on our toast? The way we button our coats?” The sprout then vocalizes appreciations about its pals ( “I like the way you bake cranberry-butter-pie muffins . . . and the way you always make enough to share”) before outlining what it likes about itself. The easy, conversational rhythm offers lots of opportunities for sharing, and the pen, watercolor, and digital art features intricately etched black-and-white backgrounds, with blips of red and earth-toned color throughout. A welcome, wandering contemplation of a book about being ‘OURSELVES together.'” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

Night Lunch
By Eric Fan
Illustrated by Dena Seiferling
48 Pages | Ages 4-8 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735270572 | Tundra Books
“‘Clip, clop, a midnight moon. / The night lunch cart rolls in.’  Spare, incantatory lines by Fan (Lizzy and the Cloud) lay down a soothing rhythm for this nocturnal idyll. Every night, a horse-drawn lunch wagon travels slowly through a darkened city, providing an array of animals – cats, foxes, possums, even a luna moth – with tasty midnight meals. Coffee, mince pie, sausages and peppers, butter rolls and biscuits; each creature gets what it wants. The toque-wearing owl who runs it says little, its energy instead devoted to cooking and serving food (‘Crack, crack, a dozen eggs – / sizzling in the pan’). Via the glow of streetlamps, the luminous moon, and the cart’s twinkling light, Seiferling (The Language of Flowers) theatrically illuminates the nighttime action, portrayed in scratchy, sepia-toned art. But who is the tiny creature sweeping trash into the gutter? It’s a small, hungry mouse. When the owl realizes the rodent’s plight, it invites the mouse to share undreamed-of bounty, and take a bag of food to go – not only sparing its traditional prey, but nourishing it, in this memorable vision of a peaceable kingdom.” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

Rodney Was a Tortoise
By Nan Forler
Illustrated by Yong Ling Kang
40 Pages | Ages 3-7 | Hardcover
ISBN 9780735266629 | Tundra Books
“Wry, observational writing by Forler (Trampoline Boy) and loose, frequently funny vignettes by Ling Kang (The Midnight Club) give this tale of loss its own distinctive, endearing resonance. Rodney, Bernadette’s tortoise, is practically prehistoric – older than her great-aunt – and girl and reptile share a happy kinship. Watercolor and pencil illustrations capture their intimacy, as Bernadette, who has light skin and straight black hair, dresses up as a queen and holds a mirror up so Rodney can admire the miniature crown she’s made for him (‘She could tell he loved it’). One morning, though, Rodney doesn’t wake up. ‘Maybe he’s just holding his breath to be funny,’ says Bernadette, before the truth of Rodney’s death launches her into mourning. Her schoolmates don’t acknowledge what’s happened or seem even to see her, and she copes by behaving like her old pal (‘Bernadette put on her protective shell, and lumbered to school’), until compassion arrives from an unexpected place. Grieving Bernadette needs someone to meet her where she is, and classmate Amar, portrayed with brown skin, is just such a person in this quiet picture book that balances mourning and remembrance.” – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

The Puffin Keeper
By Michael Morpurgo
Illustrated by Benji Davies
112 Pages | Ages 9-12 | Hardcover
ISBN 978073571807 | Puffin Canada
“Striking the tone of a fireside chat in this winning story of an enduring friendship, narrator five-year-old Allen Williams recalls the time he and his mother were rescued from a shipwreck near Cornwall’s Scilly Isles. During the event, the brave, taciturn lighthouse keeper Benjamin Postlethwaite, who rows the boat’s passengers to safety on Puffin Island, makes an indelible impression on the child. Twelve years pass: after a privileged if not always happy upbringing, Allen finally realizes his dream of returning to Puffin Island. His reconnection to Postlethwaite is immediate (‘I been expecting you,’ the lightkeeper says) and deepens through a shared love of painting and literature (Allen teaches Postlethwaite to read) and the saving of a wounded puffin – the first of many such birds to find shelter on the island. Morpurgo’s (War Horse) spare, deeply felt prose, with undercurrents of the otherworldly, creates an irresistible momentum for this elegant story of the sea and a destiny fulfilled. Davies’s (Snowflake) empathic portraiture of the largely pale-skinned cast, thrilling seascapes, and heart-touching puffins recalls the superb visual storytelling of The Storm Whale. An afterword explains that the novel is an 80th anniversary tribute to Puffin Books.”  – Starred Review, Publishers Weekly

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