Less implausible than Casey Lyell and Sebastià Serra’s Inky’s Great Escape (2017) but still unfortunate.

INKY THE OCTOPUS

BOUND FOR GLORY

Inky the octopus sings his tale.

Longing for the excitement of the “open sea,” a captive octopus describes its getaway. Basing her re-creation on an actual octopus’s escape from the New Zealand Aquarium, in 2016, Guendelsberger imagines the dissonance between Inky’s comfortable familiarity with aquarium life and his yearning to be free, finishing with his actual escape. The text is written in ballad meter, repeating variations on the refrain: “Out of this tank, I must break free. / I hear the ocean calling me!” Readers aloud may find some arrhythmic lines: “I’ve always liked eight-arm charades and seaweed hide-and-seek. / I’ve had fun playing gravel hockey and tentacle tag each week.” More importantly, the first-person narrative anthropomorphizes this alien ocean invertebrate, attributing dreams, senses, and communication skills that are human but not likely appropriate for octopuses or even fish. (In contradiction to the endmatter entry, the correct plural is octopuses, not the occasional octopodes or the incorrect back-formation octopi.) In a highly unlikely conversation with his tankmate Blotchy, he invites the fish to accompany him into “the far and great unknown.” The fish replies he would “rather stay / within his comfy home.” Leonard’s appealing cartoon illustrations reinforce this anthropomorphizing, with amusing expressions in Inky’s humanoid eyes and even a bag of belongings hanging from one tentacle as he imagines his quest. All the humans shown seem to be white. Since the actual escape was nothing short of astonishing, the anthropomorphization serves to cheapen rather than ennoble the subject.

Less implausible than Casey Lyell and Sebastià Serra’s Inky’s Great Escape (2017) but still unfortunate. (historical note, octopus facts, bibliography) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5414-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow...

THE BOOK HOG

A porcine hoarder of books learns to read—and to share.

The Book Hog’s obsession is clear from the start. Short declarative sentences describe his enthusiasm (“The Book Hog loved books”), catalog the things he likes about the printed page, and eventually reveal his embarrassing secret (“He didn’t know how to read”). While the text is straightforward, plenty of amusing visual details will entertain young listeners. A picture of the Book Hog thumbing through a book while seated on the toilet should induce some giggles. The allusive name of a local bookshop (“Wilbur’s”) as well as the covers of a variety of familiar and much-loved books (including some of the author’s own) offer plenty to pore over. And the fact that the titles become legible only after our hero learns to read is a particularly nice touch. A combination of vignettes, single-page illustrations and double-page spreads that feature Pizzoli’s characteristic style—heavy black outlines, a limited palette of mostly salmon and mint green, and simple shapes—move the plot along briskly. Librarians will appreciate the positive portrayal of Miss Olive, an elephant who welcomes the Book Hog warmly to storytime, though it’s unlikely most will be able to match her superlative level of service.

There’s nothing especially new here, but the good-natured celebration of books, reading, and libraries will charm fellow bibliophiles, and the author’s fans will enjoy making another anthropomorphic animal friend. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-03689-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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A cozy story that will transport readers to faraway places.

A GIFT FOR NANA

All gifts are perfect when they come from the heart.

Rabbit goes on a “journey through a green and grand forest” in order to get a gift for his nana even though it is “not even a major hare holiday.” He travels very far in search of the perfect gift and encounters many new friends whom he asks for help. Each of them proffers Rabbit something they can easily make or acquire: The moon offers a “crescent smile,” a whale proposes a glass of water, and so on. Ultimately, Rabbit finds the perfect gift for Nana all on his own, and his nana absolutely adores it. Although the story is a bit predictable, it is amusing—readers will laugh at the anthropomorphic volcano’s explosion and Rabbit’s exhaustion from his journey, among other chucklesome scenes. Smith’s gesso, oil, and cold wax illustrations are exquisite and almost ethereal. The friendly, many-eyed creature referred to as a “stickler” is at once haunting and intriguing. The moon is Tim Burton–esque and seems to glow and pop off the page. Pleased with his choice of gift, Rabbit has the moon’s smile on his face. The predominance of full-bleed double-page spreads accentuates Rabbit’s long quest. The different font sizes, styles, and colors will aid emerging readers with diction when reading aloud but might prove difficult for those with dyslexia. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A cozy story that will transport readers to faraway places. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-43033-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House Studio

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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