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Perfectly Imperfect

Thu, 10/13/2022 - 06:56

It's as welcome as it is regular. The return, that is, of the dynamic duo of kid-book positivity, Susan Verde, words, and Peter H. Reynolds, pictures, resuming their efforts to, if not save America's young, then at least dole out some nerves-settling encouragement.

The books are always professionally done, written with sincerity and with, per page, appropriately few words for a picture book, always carefully chosen. The simple, charming illustrations in watercolor, ink, and gouache unfailingly leave plenty of eye-pleasing white space, or maybe color-washed negative space should be the phrase in this case, though "negative" is reluctantly used, given the context.

That context, in this latest book, "I Am Me" (Abrams, $15.99), involves getting across that being different is okay, is in fact more than okay. Feeling alone, kid? Not fitting in? "But when I stop and look, nothing in this world is exactly the same," our protagonist says. "Difference is what makes life beautiful and miraculous."

The audience for those sentiments includes a few friends: an imposing lion and a scurrying orange housecat, who enter stage left to show the sheer variety in even a single animal family, joined by a remote-control mouse, a flight of fancy that feels new to the I Am series. 

Here's the crux: "I can embrace that I am perfectly imperfect because that is what makes me interesting." Well said, but this is a Susan Verde production, and the East Hamptoner always has more to say, here in the form of a page-and-a-half author's note of explication leading into an exercise in meditative yoga.  

"Though they are not a stand-in for other kinds of help and support a child might need," she writes, "research has shown that positive affirmations increase our view of our own self-worth; they also help to decrease stress and influence more positive behaviors." 

How remarkably sane.


“Orbit’s Monster Nebula”

This one's in case you missed it, because if you did you'd be denied the most out-there children's Halloween book you're likely to see.  

In "Orbit's Monster Nebula" by Billy Baldwin of Sag Harbor (Decozen Books, $25) — with tending-toward-the-wild illustrations by Liesl Bell of South Africa — the planet Gorgon is home to abundant monster-making, a business started by one Professor Astroblast "to protect treasures, challenge heroes, star in films, and occasionally devour evil wizards." 

Orbit, the granddaughter now in charge, gets her creative ya-yas out, a la Dr. Frankenstein, adding horns or wings at will, deciding if a monster will breathe fire or simply crush tall buildings with a single foot, and then there's all that training and maintenance to oversee. 

When one rather Maurice Sendak-looking creation disappears, thought to have kidnapped a human prince, a monster hunt ensues, with trackers in pursuit to the ends of the Milky Way and a small blue planet, just in time for New York City's Halloween Parade.

Why on earth? Well, where else would the Abominable Snowman and the Loch Ness Monster have come from? 

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