Charming artwork and some funny moments, marred by disingenuousness.


Nina learns that a firefly is a great night light—initially.

The illustrations are top-notch, with the appearance of black-and-white scratchboard, sparsely highlighted with a red shirt here, a yellow glow there. The text is both matter-of-fact and descriptive: “Nina was scared of the dark, so it was good she had a night-light, which made things better. Then one night… / the electricity went out. Nina watched as scary shadows crept across her walls. Every noise sounded like the whispering of monsters.” An exciting illustration that looks more like a fireworks display than a normal firefly-spangled night prefaces Nina’s trip to trap a firefly in a jar. Unfortunately, observant, bug-savvy readers will notice the lack of holes in the jar’s lid. (Those conversant with fireflies' unique needs will also take alarm at the absence of a moist paper towel within.) This mars the humor of the following pages, in which Nina engages in many activities by the firefly’s light until the insect is almost dead. Nina tries showing the bug several things to “make his light stronger—a battery, a wind-up key, her favorite chocolate bar”—until she hits on the right solution and frees it. (Whew!) Children who regularly spend time with bugs may well be so distressed at the firefly’s peril that they will be unable to enjoy the story. The grand finale is lovely, but the story does a disservice by not acknowledging the firefly’s grave danger.

Charming artwork and some funny moments, marred by disingenuousness. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: June 2, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62779-222-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.


A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

Did you like this book?