Something light for a new-baby gift or child embarking on a journey.


A poem celebrates family philosophies and affection for the young.

Eight four-line stanzas accompanied by stylized illustrations of animal parents and babies make up this hortatory collection of happy thoughts. At the opening, a bighorn ram, ewe, and lamb ascend a steep incline (“We believe in climbing higher”), a mole and baby kiss (“We believe in digging deep”), bright yellow flowers bloom (“We believe in drinking sunshine”), and a sloth snuggles with its baby (“We believe in beauty sleep”). The “we” voice of encouragement and cheerleading continues throughout. From tadpoles to lions, Idle’s big-eyed, pretty animals are all recognizable in warm pastel colors and rounded forms. “We believe in families” appears with a pair of rabbits and a multihued collection of bunnies. Even the jellyfish has babies (“We believe in shining light”). Some lines are more opaque than others: A family of brown bears eating honey that drips, improbably, from a paper-wasp nest illustrates the lines “We believe that groups are smart / We believe in smacks of sweetness.” A family of dotted rays swims across the double-page spread that follows: “We believe we’re works of art.” A monarch caterpillar, chrysalis, and butterfly appear in the last few pages (“We believe that life’s a journey”) before readers see that the bighorn sheep family has reached the summit: “We believe in you.” (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 30.3% of actual size.)

Something light for a new-baby gift or child embarking on a journey. (Picture book. 2-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-31200-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Safe to creep on by.


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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Hee haw.

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The print version of a knee-slapping cumulative ditty.

In the song, Smith meets a donkey on the road. It is three-legged, and so a “wonky donkey” that, on further examination, has but one eye and so is a “winky wonky donkey” with a taste for country music and therefore a “honky-tonky winky wonky donkey,” and so on to a final characterization as a “spunky hanky-panky cranky stinky-dinky lanky honky-tonky winky wonky donkey.” A free musical recording (of this version, anyway—the author’s website hints at an adults-only version of the song) is available from the publisher and elsewhere online. Even though the book has no included soundtrack, the sly, high-spirited, eye patch–sporting donkey that grins, winks, farts, and clumps its way through the song on a prosthetic metal hoof in Cowley’s informal watercolors supplies comical visual flourishes for the silly wordplay. Look for ready guffaws from young audiences, whether read or sung, though those attuned to disability stereotypes may find themselves wincing instead or as well.

Hee haw. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-26124-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2018

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