CAN SOMEBODY PLEASE SCRATCH MY BACK?

An elephant with a terrible itch on its back seeks help from fellow animals, but when relief is finally achieved, gratitude is the last thing on its mind.

Scratching an itch that can’t be reached is frustrating. Enlisting the right help is even more annoying for this obnoxious pachyderm. Mr. Crocodile is more than willing, but his sharp teeth (and grin) dissuade the elephant. Mr. Snail only creates a slimy feeling down Elephant’s back. As the itch grows worse, the elephant becomes increasingly upset and even rude to several more creatures willing to try, leaving the itchy beast in tears and somewhat despondent. “Oh, I have an itch on my back and it will never be scratched. I just don’t know what to do.” Then a sympathetic hedgehog appears: “Perhaps I can help. I’m quite pokey.” Scooping the hedgehog up with its trunk and placing the spiny critter in just the right spot brings the desired relief. But the boorish elephant then forcefully flings the little guy into the air—“Off you go!”—selfishly proclaiming, “Finally! Somebody who was actually helpful!” The poor helpless hedgehog is now stuck upside down with an itch of its own and, in a reprise of an earlier joke, must wait for Mr. Sloth to slowly make his way over. While taken separately each individual encounter is quite funny, the intended amusement in the dialogue-driven story is marred by the elephant’s concluding, churlish behavior, rendering the endearingly cute, delicately outlined cartoon illustrations inapt.

Just plain mean-spirited. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2854-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for...

OLIVER AND HIS EGG

Oliver, of first-day-of-school alligator fame, is back, imagining adventures and still struggling to find balance between introversion and extroversion.

“When Oliver found his egg…” on the playground, mint-green backgrounds signifying Oliver’s flight into fancy slowly grow larger until they take up entire spreads; Oliver’s creature, white and dinosaurlike with orange polka dots, grows larger with them. Their adventures include sharing treats, sailing the seas and going into outer space. A classmate’s yell brings him back to reality, where readers see him sitting on top of a rock. Even considering Schmid’s scribbly style, readers can almost see the wheels turning in his head as he ponders the girl and whether or not to give up his solitary play. “But when Oliver found his rock… // Oliver imagined many adventures // with all his friends!” This last is on a double gatefold that opens to show the children enjoying the creature’s slippery curves. A final wordless spread depicts all the children sitting on rocks, expressions gleeful, wondering, waiting, hopeful. The illustrations, done in pastel pencil and digital color, again make masterful use of white space and page turns, although this tale is not nearly as funny or tongue-in-cheek as Oliver and His Alligator (2013), nor is its message as clear and immediately accessible to children.

Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for all children but sadly isn’t. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7573-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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Skip this well-meaning but poorly executed celebration.

I LOVE DADDY EVERY DAY

Children point out the things they love about their fathers.

“Daddy is always kind. He gives us support and shelter when things go wrong.” A child with a skinned knee (and downed ice cream cone) gets a bandage and loving pat from Daddy (no shelter is visible, but the child’s concerned sibling sweetly extends their own cone). Daddy’s a storyteller, a magician, supportive, loyal, silly, patient, and he knows everything. A die-cut hole pierces most pages, positioned so that the increasingly smaller holes to come can be seen through it; what it represents in each scene varies, and it does so with also-variable success. The bland, nonrhyming, inconsistent text does little to attract or keep attention, though the die cuts might (until they fall victim to curious fingers). The text also confusingly mixes first-person singular and plural, sometimes on the same page: “Daddy is like a gardener. He lovingly cares for us and watches us grow. I’m his pride and joy!” Even as the text mixes number the illustrations mix metaphors. This particular gardener daddy is pictured shampooing a child during bathtime. Más’ cartoon illustrations are sweet if murkily interpretive, affection clearly conveyed. Troublingly, though, each father and his child(ren) seem to share the same racial presentation and hair color (sometimes even hairstyle!), shutting out many different family constellations. Más does, however, portray several disabilities: children and adults wearing glasses, a child with a cochlear implant, and another using a wheelchair.

Skip this well-meaning but poorly executed celebration. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12305-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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