Amiable but with no surprises, this story about finding friendship makes for a pleasant if not particularly memorable...

A SMALL BLUE WHALE

A picture book about finding friends.

A “small blue whale…in a silver sea” is “wishing, wanting, waiting for a friend.” As the sun rises, the whale feels the warmth and wonders if this is what friendship feels like. A pink cloud in the sky sprinkles drops of water on him, causing the whale to wonder if this is what friendship tastes like. Other senses are engaged as the story progresses. Ferry’s smooth text glistens with alliteration and circularity, but the sweet story is just that—one-note sweet. In both illustrations and text, the whale is always pleasant, even when, due to an ill-considered decision (but done in the name of friendship), he ends up stuck on the ice until a troupe of shovel-wielding penguins rescues him. The not-unexpected ending neatly affirms that the whale has found friends and that it was worth the wait. Mundorff’s illustrations, looking somewhat like Eric Carle’s tissue-paper collages, have a serene feel, and her color palette stays on the cool side, so the overall effect is tranquil but rather detached. Readers may wish for a bit more personality in either the text or the illustrations—a little salt to contrast all that sweetness. Then again, maybe sweet these days is just fine too.

Amiable but with no surprises, this story about finding friendship makes for a pleasant if not particularly memorable read-aloud. (Picture book. 2-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1337-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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