Dessert Island
by Zhu, Ben

Monkey is stuck on an island made of desserts, and Fox on one made of dirt and rocks, but as time passes, fortunes change and they learn about sharing and caring.

Ben Zhu is an illustrator who, after working in the video game industry, founded Gallery Nucleus in 2004, an art gallery and bookshop devoted to illustration, animation, and narrative art with locations in Los Angeles and Portland. Born in Beijing, he moved to the US at age 7 and now lives in Southern California with his wife, daughter, and extremely old pet chow chow. Dessert Island is his first picture book.

Monkey is on a cake-like dessert island made of chocolate, frosting, and berries. Fox, on the other hand, is stuck on a desert island with only dirt and rocks. At first, lucky Monkey gorges on their delicious floating home, while hungry Fox waits patiently for a seed to grow, but a sudden rainstorm reverses their luck: the dessert island begins to dissolve, and Fox's plant begins to grow. In the end, two surprising acts of generosity and sacrifice save them both. Zhu packs a rich story and message into remarkably few but carefully chosen words. The language is simple enough for level 1 emerging readers, and the rainbow of exposed, unadulterated emotions is on par with Elephant and Piggie. Though simple, the acrylic-and-colored-pencil illustrations possess remarkable artistry as the story progresses, from a spectacular image of light beams in a rain shower to the terrifying lightning crashing over a stormy squall. The sweet way that the characters save each other is the cherry on top of this lovely picture-book debut. Preschool-Grade 2. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

What a difference an S makes-Monkey's living large on a "dessert" island, and Fox is starving on a "desert" island. It's chocolate cake, frosting, and berries versus dirt, rocks, and inedible plants. Monkey indulges on the enormous sweet treat and hasn't any worries. Fox doesn't know where the next meal is coming from-until one day a berry floats by. The berry's loss is inconsequential to Monkey but a lifesaver for Fox, who plants it and eagerly awaits the sustaining food source. A sudden rainstorm brings unexpected havoc to Monkey's idyllic existence but provides water for Fox and the berry seed. As the sugary dessert island disintegrates in the downpour, Fox's seed sends up shoots. Monkey panics while Fox celebrates. The iced four-layer cake is reduced to a single berry, and Monkey is in serious trouble. Fox spies the desperate, soggy Monkey and sacrifices the newly grown plant. Extending it as a lifeline to Monkey, Fox acquires a friend. From solitary existences to shared companionship and resources, the new friends realize how lucky they are. Zhu's simple declarative sentences slowly reveal the discrepancies between the protagonists and their respective habitats and philosophies. Along with the sympathetic characters, Zhu's bright and gentle artwork highlights the changing conditions of the story with the same economy of expression as his text. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 18.1% of actual size.) A guileless parable about having your cake and eating it too. (Picture book. 4-7) Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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