Whimsical illustrations cannot mitigate the wandering plot and unimpressive prose.


When Anjali wakes up in the middle of the night, the cold floor makes her wonder if someone has come in the house and left the door open—a thief, perhaps?

While her mother sleeps soundly, Anjali investigates. There is no food missing from the kitchen, but Anjali soon finds that her sparkly skirt, her mother’s silver comb, and a handful of coins are missing. Panicked, Anjali runs into the street screaming, summoning her neighbors and finally waking up her mother. But when she discovers that her river rocks are also missing, Anjali wonders if the thief is a villain or maybe just a lost little girl looking for treasure. When Anjali and her neighbors finally apprehend the thief, it turns out to be someone—or, rather, something—they never would have expected. Eventually, Anjali falls asleep next to her mother, dreaming of befriending the surprise thief. While the book’s illustrations effectively use bold blocks of color to create a fanciful feel, the text leaves much to be desired. The story meanders, often including superfluous details that are either already in the illustrations or read as a rather belabored explanation of the South Asian setting. Several of Anjali’s actions feel age inappropriate, including lighting an oil lamp with no parental supervision, running through her neighborhood alone in the dark, and feeding a wild monkey a banana. These excitements aside, overall, the story is too scattered and the prose too uneven to hold attention. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.4-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 69.4% of actual size.)

Whimsical illustrations cannot mitigate the wandering plot and unimpressive prose. (Picture book. 2-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4788-6813-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Reycraft Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Vibrant, layered illustrations in lush woodland colors outshine a simplistic storyline.


Rainbow Fish creator Pfister moves from sea to forest to create another book in signature soft-edged watercolors. No shimmers this time.

The first two-page spread captures an idyllic wildflower scene in which “all was quiet and all was still.” But with a page turn, a crisis explodes. Readers come face to face with an enormous illustration of a horrified squirrel from whom “there came a scream so shrill / That all the trees quaked and quivered, / And all the animals shook and shivered.” The catastrophe? The squirrel’s hazelnuts have disappeared. Determined to find the thief, the squirrel visits a mole, mouse, rabbit, hamster (oddly, living loose in the European woods), and fox and accuses each of stealing his hazelnuts. The first four each deny being the thief and reply with a refrain that young listeners can chime in on: “I know for a fact it isn’t me.” Unsurprisingly, the fox threatens to eat the squirrel. With his tummy rumbling, the despairing squirrel heads home only to discover the missing hazelnuts under fallen leaves where he must have stored them. Ecstatic, the squirrel shares his news with his heretofore suspects, but rather than sharing his joy, they have “a different feeling.” In a rushed and not particularly satisfying ending, the squirrel apologizes and then eats some hazelnuts.

Vibrant, layered illustrations in lush woodland colors outshine a simplistic storyline. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4382-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Goofy, hilarious, laugh-out-loud fun for all.


From the Not an Alphabet Book series

Bear frantically and very dramatically searches for a thief who has stolen the delicious chocolate cake.

Bear is distraught that the cake, which was supposed to appear on Page 5 of his simple alphabet book, has disappeared. Bear pleads directly with readers for help in finding the thief somewhere within the book. The furry protagonist then questions suspects, barreling through the alphabet letter by letter. Even inanimate objects draw suspicion, for it’s possible that the helicopter or the kite might have helped the culprit escape. Bear continues to blame everyone and everything he encounters, but most have strong alibis and witnesses. Finally he fingers Pig as his prime suspect, punishing him severely. But Octopus, Robot, and Walrus are skeptical and have noticed some anomalies. Sharp-eyed young readers will take note as well, for there are clues in plain sight from which Bear tries to divert attention. There’s the empty plate on his own page, dark stains around his mouth, and several pauses for ice cream and yogurt. When confronted, he denies knowledge or tries to silence his accusers. But he is truly caught. However, his punishment actually delights him, for he must bake a new cake. Boutavant’s bright, large-scale illustrations are filled with delightful details, and Bear’s overwrought reactions are positively loony. This is a perfect vehicle for reading aloud or reading together over and over, with lots of opportunities for highly expressive emoting and giggles galore.

Goofy, hilarious, laugh-out-loud fun for all. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1267-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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