An appealingly illustrated early reader that’s strong on social message but rather weak on plot.

THE BUDDY BENCH

From the Confetti Kids series

When Padma and her friends notice a lonely new boy at school, they make a plan to help him feel included.

Padma loves school, and she loves her friends. When she finds out that she has been assigned to a different classroom than her friends, she isn’t bothered, seeing it instead it as an opportunity to make new friends. But Padma notices a new boy who stands by himself at the side of the playground, looking lonely. To help him feel included, Padma and her friends get the principal’s permission to create a "buddy bench," a place where kids can sit together and make new friends. After some initial hesitation, the lonely boy sits on the bench, and Padma and her friends learn that Zander’s mom is a military pilot and that the family has been through a number of moves. Padma strikes up a friendship with him, and by the end of the book, he has been absorbed into Padma’s happy and diverse peer group. Padma’s name hints at Indian heritage, and Zander appears black. The book’s vibrant illustrations include a diverse cast of characters who are compassionate, convincing, and empowered to solve their own problems. Although the language is appropriately simple and clear, it can sometimes feel forced and stilted, particularly in dialogue. Likewise, the plot, though well-intentioned, lacks cohesion.

An appealingly illustrated early reader that’s strong on social message but rather weak on plot. (Early reader. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62014-571-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Cool beans indeed.

THE COOL BEAN

From the Food Group series

A supposed “has-bean” shows that coolness has more to do with deeds than demeanor.

Offering further moral instruction in this leguminous cousin to The Bad Seed (2017) and The Good Egg (2019), Oswald portrays three beans—each a different species but all sporting boss shades, fly threads, and that requisite air of nonchalance—bringing the cool to streets, hallways, playgrounds, and Leguma Beach. Meanwhile, a fourth (a scraggly-haired chickpea), whose efforts to echo the look and the ’tude have fallen flat, takes on the role of nerdy narrator to recall “olden days” when they all hung out in the same pod. Still, despite rolling separate ways (nobody’s fault: “That’s just how it is sometimes. You spend less time together, even though you’re not totally sure why”), when the uncool bean drops a lunch tray, skins a kid knee on the playground, or just needs a hint in class, one of the others is always on the scene toot suite. No biggie. And passing those casual acts of kindness forward? “Now that’s cool.” John’s good-hearted text makes some hay with the bean puns while Oswald’s pipe-stemmed limbs, googly eyes, and accessories give these anthropomorphic legumes lots of personality. As a fava to young audiences, pair with Jamie Michalak and Frank Kolar’s Frank and Bean (2019) for a musical combination.

Cool beans indeed. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-295452-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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