If Only...
by Van Hout, Mies; Colmer, David (TRN)

Features vivid creatures in a jewel-tone natural setting to explore the longing we all feel at times to be like somebody else.

*Starred Review* Standing upon a hill, a child wishes to be a butterfly, free to fly anywhere. Above her, a butterfly yearns to be a stick insect­-inconspicuous! A stick insect wants to swirl across water like a whirligig beetle, which wants to be as brave at night as a firefly, which esteems the communal lifestyle of a bee, which respects the independence of a spider. With each small animal admiring another, the story comes full circle when a dragonfly longs to be a child, "Then I could run, jump, laugh, play hide-and-seek, count, build houses . . . and so much more." The imaginative narrative guides viewers through a series of richly colorful, dynamic collages, each showcasing a creature and its particularly enviable ability, characteristic, or situation. In an appended section, Van Hout presents an illustrated glossary with a relevant fact or two about each animal, as well as an art project advising kids on creating their own collage creatures by sliding scraps of paper around "until you feel happy," a possible insight into her own creative process and one that may explain how a picture book based on longing manages to express such delight in the natural world. Originally published in the Netherlands, this radiant picture book has international appeal. Preschool-Grade 2. Copyright 2021 Booklist Reviews.

Welcome to the world of minibeasts! Beginning with a child's wish to be a butterfly so she can fly everywhere, this straightforward yet poetic selection introduces young readers and listeners to an array of tiny creatures, including butterflies, fireflies, bees, spiders, snails, and more, all the while showcasing something special about each one of them. Every spread, crafted with striking paper-collage illustrations reminiscent of the work of Eric Carle and Denise Fleming, glows with red, blue, green, and yellow hues and provides an entrance to an intricate and appealing environment specific to the creature. Simple, repeating text ("If only I were a...") names a distinctive aspect of each invertebrate's appearance, behavior, social structure, or ability or how it is perceived by others. This is then mirrored in the picture and leads to that animal's description of the following creature: "The stick insect thought, / If only I were a whirligig beetle. / Then I could swirl across the water." The racially diverse children who appear in the initial and final pages are active, smiling, curious, a part of the natural world themselves, and they feature similar abilities of their own. This gentle celebration of differences also promotes an appreciation of others' strengths and quietly emphasizes relationships within the animal kingdom. A colorful introduction to the natural sciences featuring warm and inviting illustrations. (glossary, art tips) (Picture book. 2-5) Copyright Kirkus 2021 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.

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