Friendship, loyalty, and determination come through in this well-paced exploit.

RABBIT & POSSUM

Energetic Rabbit invites her friend Possum for a snack but must first figure out a way to help him climb down from a high tree branch.

When Possum hears rustling in the bushes, he assumes a monster is close by and, frightened, scampers up a tree—only to realize later that he cannot get down. Good friend Rabbit tries unsuccessfully to climb the tree and then thinks of various implausible ways to rescue her friend. One includes building a ladder that, humorously, is too short, effectively depicted in a well-composed double-page spread. Finally Rabbit decides to ask the “monster” (really a moose with very large antlers) for help but must first convince Possum to quell his fear. Later relieved to learn that Moose is a vegetarian and not a possum-eating monster, Possum is still not ready to repeat the whole experience when, after a snack of lettuce sandwiches and carrots, he reacts with an anxious “NO!” to Rabbit’s suggestion, “Let’s climb another tree!” Simple, cartoon-style digitally colored pencil drawings fill in the story’s narration with illustrated thought bubbles reflecting Rabbit’s ideas for rescue. Looking closely, readers can surmise who the “monster” is from Moose’s various hidden poses in the backgrounds of each scene. At the same time the storyline is enhanced with well-integrated dialogue balloons highlighting both problem and solution from each character’s perspective.

Friendship, loyalty, and determination come through in this well-paced exploit. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-245581-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations.

I BELIEVE I CAN

Diversity is the face of this picture book designed to inspire confidence in children.

Fans of Byers and Bobo’s I Am Enough (2018) will enjoy this book that comes with a universal message of self-acceptance. A line of children practices ballet at the barre; refreshingly, two of the four are visibly (and adorably) pudgy. Another group tends a couple of raised beds; one of them wears hijab. Two more children coax a trepidatious friend down a steep slide. Further images, of children pretending to be pirates, dragons, mimes, playing superhero and soccer, and cooking, are equally endearing, but unfortunately they don’t add enough heft to set the book apart from other empowerment books for children. Though the illustrations shine, the text remains pedagogic and bland. Clichés abound: “When I believe in myself, there’s simply nothing I can’t do”; “Sometimes I am right, and sometimes I am wrong. / But even when I make mistakes, I learn from them to make me strong.” The inclusion of children with varying abilities, religions, genders, body types, and racial presentations creates an inviting tone that makes the book palatable. It’s hard to argue with the titular sentiment, but this is not the only book of its ilk on the shelf.

Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266713-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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