Cucco’s vibrant illustrations, published posthumously, make Miller’s simple tale with its valuable message something special.

WINSTON & GEORGE

An exploration of the unusual friendship between the crocodile and the crocodile bird.

George the bird and Winston the croc spend every day together, fishing the river where they both live. George perches on the end of Winston’s nose and peers into the water. When he sees a fish, he shouts “DIVE!” Winston does so and brings up a tasty meal for them both. But George is a prankster. As Winston sleeps in the cooling water, George gives him a big push, and the croc drifts several miles downstream, far from home. When he returns, the other crocodiles mock him and encourage him to “eat up that bird.” But the thought of fishing without George makes him too sad to even answer. George fools Winston again, goading him to dive into a big mud bank. The joke goes sour when Winston becomes stuck, and a small herd of hippos is needed to free him. It’s time for Winston to teach George a lesson. The amusing tale plays out in energetic watercolor cartoons reminiscent of Tomi Ungerer, laid out in an expansive landscape orientation. The book was first written in the 1960s but remained unpublished until now, and that story is worth the price of admission all by itself. There’s also a helpful informative page about real crocodile birds and crocodiles.

Cucco’s vibrant illustrations, published posthumously, make Miller’s simple tale with its valuable message something special. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 21, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59270-145-2

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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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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