It’s nice to see a vivid imagination at work even though this plods where it should soar.

NIGHT NIGHT, CURIOSITY

A child with eyes on the skies fits an envisioned trip to Mars into the bedtime routine.

After Mom has gone off to work a night shift at (as a later video call reveals) Mission Control, Dad flies the space-mad young narrator upstairs to wash up, snuggle down, and all the while imagine traveling with the Curiosity rover through space to land on Mars. In his russet-toned illustrations, O’Rourke bucks a common trend in the recent spate of entry-level tributes by not anthropomorphizing the durable rover. Consequently, the episode is animated less by artificial, fanciful elements than by the child’s native interest in space. The child’s astronomical enthusiasm is underscored in the pictures as the scene switches back and forth from Mars to good-night hugs and kisses in a bedroom festooned with space-themed furnishings and decorations. If Sayres’ verses aren’t exactly star quality (“We cuddle with my bedtime book… / We’re racing toward the sand. / Our parachute helps slow us down. / It’s time for us to land”) and the illustrator varies the child’s size from scene to scene, still the premise has a certain glow to it…and both rhymed part and prose afterword shed glimmers of background information about the rover’s mission. Child and parents appear to be White, but there are figures with darker skin in a crowd scene.

It’s nice to see a vivid imagination at work even though this plods where it should soar. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-58089-893-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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“It’s time to head back home,” the narrator concludes. “You’ve touched the Earth in so many ways.” Who knew it would be so...

TOUCH THE EARTH

From the Julian Lennon White Feather Flier Adventure series , Vol. 1

A pro bono Twinkie of a book invites readers to fly off in a magic plane to bring clean water to our planet’s oceans, deserts, and brown children.

Following a confusingly phrased suggestion beneath a soft-focus world map to “touch the Earth. Now touch where you live,” a shake of the volume transforms it into a plane with eyes and feathered wings that flies with the press of a flat, gray “button” painted onto the page. Pressing like buttons along the journey releases a gush of fresh water from the ground—and later, illogically, provides a filtration device that changes water “from yucky to clean”—for thirsty groups of smiling, brown-skinned people. At other stops, a tap on the button will “help irrigate the desert,” and touching floating bottles and other debris in the ocean supposedly makes it all disappear so the fish can return. The 20 children Coh places on a globe toward the end are varied of skin tone, but three of the four young saviors she plants in the flier’s cockpit as audience stand-ins are white. The closing poem isn’t so openly parochial, though it seldom rises above vague feel-good sentiments: “Love the Earth, the moon and sun. / All the children can be one.”

“It’s time to head back home,” the narrator concludes. “You’ve touched the Earth in so many ways.” Who knew it would be so easy to clean the place up and give everyone a drink? (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5107-2083-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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