Nothing heavy here, just good times with good beaver buddies.

MY FRIEND BEN AND THE BIG RACE

From the Chip & Ben series

Two beaver friends take on a swimming challenge.

Chip and Ben, young beaver pals featured in two previous books by Beyl, love to swim together, but it's usually an excuse to dive for rocks and explore the area near each other’s homes. When Catfish urges them to race with him to the far end of Beaver Pond, it's a huge deal for the youngsters, since they’ve “never swum all the way across the pond.” Readers may detect a contradiction here since the beavers would have had to swim all the way across the pond to get to each other’s homes, but close inspection of the artwork reveals that Ben’s family has a motorboat-style sailing vessel made out of a hollowed tree trunk. Chip, who narrates the book, has qualms about the long swim, but Ben says that “it'll be an adventure!” With their parents’ permission, the two venture out. Ben speeds ahead, but Chip struggles. “I wish I were pretending and exploring with Ben. This isn't fun anymore,” he laments. Best friend that he is, Ben slows down to wait for Chip, and the two finish the journey together. This ode to friendship is heartwarming and includes inventive touches like “twig-and-maple-leaf sandwiches.” Beyl’s cartoony illustrations are expressive and engaging throughout; of particular note is a double-page map of the pond and surrounding landscape showing such intriguing landmarks as “Broken Canoe” and “Scary Stumps.” Chip and Ben are a delight, and their modest-yet-huge adventure’s a treat. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nothing heavy here, just good times with good beaver buddies. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-8075-5464-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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A full-hearted valentine.

THIS IS A SCHOOL

A soaring panegyric to elementary school as a communal place to learn and grow.

“This is a kid,” Schu begins. “This is a kid in a class. This is a class in a hall….” If that class—possibly second graders, though they could be a year to either side of that—numbers only about a dozen in Jamison’s bright paintings, it makes up for that in diversity, with shiny faces of variously brown or olive complexion well outnumbering paler ones; one child using a wheelchair; and at least two who appear to be Asian. (The adult staff is likewise racially diverse.) The children are individualized in the art, but the author’s narrative is addressed more to an older set of readers as it runs almost entirely to collective nouns and abstract concepts: “We share. We help. / This is a community, growing.” Younger audiences will zero in on the pictures, which depict easily recognizable scenes of both individual and collective learning and play, with adults and classmates always on hand to help out or join in. Signs of conflict are unrealistically absent, but an occasional downcast look does add a bit of nuance to the general air of eager positivity on display. A sad face at an apartment window with a comment that “[s]ometimes something happens, and we can’t all be together” can be interpreted as an oblique reference to pandemic closings, but the central message here is that school is a physical space, not a virtual one, where learning and community happen. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A full-hearted valentine. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0458-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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PIRATES DON'T TAKE BATHS

Echoes of Runaway Bunny color this exchange between a bath-averse piglet and his patient mother. Using a strategy that would probably be a nonstarter in real life, the mother deflects her stubborn offspring’s string of bath-free occupational conceits with appeals to reason: “Pirates NEVER EVER take baths!” “Pirates don’t get seasick either. But you do.” “Yeesh. I’m an astronaut, okay?” “Well, it is hard to bathe in zero gravity. It’s hard to poop and pee in zero gravity too!” And so on, until Mom’s enticing promise of treasure in the deep sea persuades her little Treasure Hunter to take a dive. Chunky figures surrounded by lots of bright white space in Segal’s minimally detailed watercolors keep the visuals as simple as the plotline. The language isn’t quite as basic, though, and as it rendered entirely in dialogue—Mother Pig’s lines are italicized—adult readers will have to work hard at their vocal characterizations for it to make any sense. Moreover, younger audiences (any audiences, come to that) may wonder what the piggy’s watery closing “EUREKA!!!” is all about too. Not particularly persuasive, but this might coax a few young porkers to get their trotters into the tub. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25425-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2011

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