Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Grandpa Across the Ocean review from Kirkus


Author: Hyewon Yum
Illustrator: Hyewon Yum
Pages: 40
Price ( Hardcover ): $16.99
Publication Date: April 27, 2021
ISBN ( Hardcover ): 978-1-4197-4225-5

A summer spent in Korea with Grandpa provides growth for a little Korean American child.

A little black-haired Asian child wheels a blue suitcase through the city, craning to take in the new sights and sounds of a foreign land. This is where Grandpa lives. “It smells strange. It sounds strange.” With a sad face, the child tries to adjust to this new place, giving a firsthand account of trials suffered. When an accident caused by frustration and boredom surprises both grandfather and grandchild, there is a reckoning of sorts. Guilty feelings on both sides lead to new behaviors. This kid is possibly the same child from Yum’s previous title Puddle (2016), and the theme of overcoming cranky behavior repeats as well. With the same warmhearted care, the child is helped through the adjustment of having a relationship with a loving relative who lives across the ocean. Illustrated with colored pencil, the scenes are light and filled with patience and love. The grandfather is frequently shown at the same eye level as the child, highlighting the importance of physical connection. An effort is made to translate simple Korean words to English, and many will recognize the awkward feeling of understanding a different culture. Hopefully, readers will appreciate the importance of an affectionate relationship between grandparent and grandchild. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 29.8% of actual size.)

A reminder that love and attention can bolster relationships separated by time and distance. (Picture book. 3-8.)

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Kirkus review


Happiness offsets harder feelings.

A child with brown skin and puffy brown hair lies asleep. “The slowness of two eyes opening,” reads the text; eyes open, the child rises in cheerful daylight to greetings from two dogs and “the happiness of a new day.” Handy’s exploration of emotions that proceed into happiness is a grab bag. It’s nonlinear (can be opened anywhere); the multiracial cast of characters hold no especial connections with each other; and the prehappiness modes vary between moods and situations. “The fear of leaping. / The happiness of having leapt”—feet on a diving board, then a child excitedly suspended midair above the pool—juxtaposes negative and positive feelings in a fairly traditional manner. Readers will thrill to a spread about peeing and another about the critical difference between hearing no and saying no. However, stillness, distance, and self-sufficiency are pretty neutral; when a bird experiences “The stillness of a perch. / The happiness of flight,” the stillness doesn’t seem inferior, creating a question—what do these juxtapositions mean? Enter Yum’s watercolor-and–colored-pencil illustrations, airy and light, with soft pencil shadings everywhere for comfort. “The self-sufficiency of a cat in the morning. / The happiness of a cat in the afternoon” is mystifying as a pairing of opposites, but Yum’s pale sunlight and cooling shadows—first on a windowsill, then spilling over the blissful cat on the floor—override any conceptual confusion with beauty.

A contemplative exploration, with illustrations that carry readers past puzzlement. (Picture book. 3-6)