Spotty visuals drag down a lively text.

HANK AND GERTIE

A PIONEER HANSEL AND GRETEL STORY

A new twist on an old favorite takes readers along the Oregon Trail.

It’s just a hop, skip, and a jump from Hansel and Gretel’s forest in Germany to the lonely high deserts of Oregon and Idaho. Here, siblings Hank and Gertie wander too far from their wagon train only to discover a cabin made of rock candy and licorice. The witch inside immediately imprisons Gertie and feeds Hank past satiety, meaning it’s up to the girl’s quick brain, applying what she’s learned on the trail, to save both herself and her brother. Kimmel proves yet again that folk- and fairy tales still make for great picture-book fodder. Eschewing Western vernacular, he tells his tale straight, albeit with some startling details (the witch takes a page out of Baba Yaga’s playbook, traveling by kettle). Serviceable, sometimes-awkward, flat images accompany the text, occasionally surprising readers with understated details (as when the wagon train loads up the candy from the cabin at the end). The illustrations shine when displaying the magnificent array of foods—duff pudding with maple cream sauce, fried chicken, hoecakes, and more—that disappear down Hank’s gullet. Hank, Gertie, and their mother are white, and no mention is made of American Indians, though the villain’s darker skin, fringed buckskin jacket, and moccasins are entirely avoidable choices that play into stereotypes.

Spotty visuals drag down a lively text. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-51326-122-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: WestWinds Press

Review Posted Online: May 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2018

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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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A delicious triumph over fear of night creatures.

PIPPA'S NIGHT PARADE

Pippa conquers a fear of the creatures that emerge from her storybooks at night.

Pippa’s “wonderfully wild imagination” can sometimes run “a little TOO wild.” During the day, she wears her “armor” and is a force to be reckoned with. But in bed at night, Pippa worries about “villains and monsters and beasts.” Sharp-toothed and -taloned shadows, dragons, and pirates emerge from her storybooks like genies from a bottle, just to scare her. Pippa flees to her parents’ room only to be brought back time and again. Finally, Pippa decides that she “needs a plan” to “get rid of them once and for all.” She decides to slip a written invitation into every book, and that night, they all come out. She tries subduing them with a lasso, an eye patch, and a sombrero, but she is defeated. Next, she tries “sashes and sequins and bows,” throwing the fashion pieces on the monsters, who…“begin to pose and primp and preen.” After that success, their fashion show becomes a nightly ritual. Clever Pippa’s transformation from scared victim of her own imagination to leader of the monster pack feels fairly sudden, but it’s satisfying nonetheless. The cartoony illustrations effectively use dynamic strokes, shadow, and light to capture action on the page and the feeling of Pippa's fears taking over her real space. Pippa and her parents are brown-skinned with curls of various textures.

A delicious triumph over fear of night creatures. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-9300-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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