A worldwide whirlwind that misses the mark.


A stuffed animal and a stick travel around the world by mistake.

Huggie, a blue stuffed animal, and Stick, a wooden stick with a face, arms, and legs, fall out of their boy owner’s backpack into the ocean. They narrate in diary entries, taking turns. Stick’s an eternal optimist, cheerful and oblivious, calling pirates “nice guys in super awesome hats.” In contrast, Huggie’s grumpy, realistic, and perpetually annoyed. Spencer’s pen-and-ink–and-digital art is full of sharp lines and angles, emphasizing exaggerated perspectives and expressions. As the accidental adventurers hop from continent to continent, the places they visit fall into disturbing categories. Australia, Asia, and Africa feature wilderness and animals but neither humans nor industrialization, while Europe and North America feature humans, industrialization, and news media. South America (in text, not pictures) has people who use Stick “as a blowgun to shoot at monkeys and sloths all morning.” Such coding breathes new life into old, inexcusable messages about race and culture. Humor for the butt-jokes crowd and playfulness (“sharks are allergic to stuffed animals”) can’t outweigh the deplorable Western-centric attitudes and one massive geographical misstep: The protagonists fall off an African coast on the right-hand side of a spread into the Atlantic. This misleads readers who don’t know geography yet and confuses those who do. (An only-somewhat-clarifying map on the closing endpapers does not mitigate this fault.) Moreover, the suspension of disbelief demanded by the story is so staggeringly large that it’s distancing.

A worldwide whirlwind that misses the mark. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-17276-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught...


A child struggles with the worry and anxiety that come with an unexpected problem.

In a wonderful balance of text and pictures, the team responsible for What Do You Do With an Idea (2014) returns with another book inspiring children to feel good about themselves. A child frets about a problem that won’t go away: “I wished it would just disappear. I tried everything I could to hide from it. I even found ways to disguise myself. But it still found me.” The spare, direct narrative is accompanied by soft gray illustrations in pencil and watercolor. The sepia-toned figure of the child is set apart from the background and surrounded by lots of white space, visually isolating the problem, which is depicted as a purple storm cloud looming overhead. Color is added bit by bit as the storm cloud grows and its color becomes more saturated. With a backpack and umbrella, the child tries to escape the problem while the storm swirls, awash with compass points scattered across the pages. The pages brighten into splashes of yellow as the child decides to tackle the problem head-on and finds that it holds promise for unlooked-for opportunity.

A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught situations, this belongs on the shelf alongside Molly Bang’s Sophie books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943-20000-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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Nice enough, but its twinkle is on the faint side.


A boy gets an unusual payoff after wishing on a star.

Sitting outside one night, Clyde notices a lone star in the sky. He recites the “Star light, star bright” incantation and makes a wish. Disappointed when it doesn’t come true, he returns home. But later, while he’s asleep, the star he’d wished on sneaks into his bedroom and makes a wish on him! Startled awake, Clyde wonders how to grant Star’s wish. He shares some ideas (and actual objects) with her: a game of checkers, tent camping, tossing a Frisbee, and walkie-talkies. Star likes them, but they’re not her wishes; Clyde confides there’s no one to enjoy them with—and wonders if perhaps Star had wished for a friend. No one will be surprised at what Clyde next confesses to Star. The pair winds up playing together and becoming besties. This is a sweet but thin and predictable story about making friends. Still, readers will appreciate meeting feisty, celestial Star. The author reaches for humor using colloquialisms (“freaked out”), and kids will like the comfortable familiarity that develops between the cheery protagonists. The colored-pencil illustrations are rendered in a limited palette of mostly dark blues and purples, appropriate to the nighttime setting. Star is a luminous, pale yellow with a white topknot and has a star-dappled aura around her. Purple-pj’d Clyde wears bunny slippers and presents White. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough, but its twinkle is on the faint side. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-399-17132-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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