A superficial tail wagger, but it’s good to see the White House going to the dogs literally again rather than otherwise.

CHAMP AND MAJOR

FIRST DOGS

Two German shepherds take on the very important job of keeping their newly elected “dad” from working too hard.

As the Bidens’ dog since vice-presidential days, Champ knows his duties well and readily assumes new ones when Major arrives—first teaching the rambunctious shelter pup how to behave at home and in public and then, after the election, taking him on a tour of the White House. The low-saturation, generic, sparsely detailed cartoon illustrations look as whipped out as the blandly minimal narrative, which is so simple caregivers may need to fill in quite a lot for little listeners—like what is the job Champ and Major’s dad does that’s so tiring. Only one scene, of Biden addressing reporters with Vice President–elect Kamala Harris at his side, includes human figures wearing face coverings to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Still, the newest first family is at least recognizable, and Abvabi Best also gets the dogs’ coloring right as well as populating the backgrounds with a diverse cast (including an Obama-era flashback of the African American first couple next to the White vice-presidential couple). If her final view, of the canines snuggled down in the Oval Office, is a bit speculative (not to say idealized), it does bring the double tribute to a cozy, companionable close. A closing timeline of U.S. presidential pets and a note on the histories of the two dogs and information about shelter pets in general add a few morsels of fact to chew on. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.5-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 79% of actual size.)

A superficial tail wagger, but it’s good to see the White House going to the dogs literally again rather than otherwise. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-40714-1

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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A subtle tale, perhaps best read to a thoughtful child in the intimate setting of a winter bedtime.

WINTER MOON SONG

Quiet but joyful, this is an original story based on a traditional theme found in many cultures.

The author’s note mentions that in some Native American cultures, as well as in China, Korea and Japan, the trope of the rabbit in the moon is well-known. Brooks learned about it from a Lakota elder and then spun her own tale. A young rabbit in a northern clime learns the “Winter Moon Song.” On his way home from rehearsal for the annual performance, he stops in the woods and looks up at the image of the “rabbit-in-the-moon” and remembers the story, told by his mother, of love and sacrifice binding together the Great Mother, Creator Rabbit (imagined by Brooks), and one of her earthly creations, a little rabbit. The song continues to honor this story and is meant to “lighten the darkest month of the year with a trail of magic.” Yet the new singer is not satisfied with the performance. Instead of the churchlike place with candlelight where the rabbits gather, he starts to sing right under the moon, “with the rabbit pattern clearly visible,” beginning a new tradition. The soft watercolors, in subdued gray and deep blue, with some contrasting warm brown and golden shades, set a tranquil tone.

A subtle tale, perhaps best read to a thoughtful child in the intimate setting of a winter bedtime. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-55498-320-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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A slip of a story with quite engaging illustrations.

MR. CAT AND THE LITTLE GIRL

Sometimes friendships can be all too fleeting.

In this tale told across the seasons, Mr. Cat, a painter, encounters a tiny slip of a girl beneath some autumn leaves amid winter’s snows. Concerned, he takes her home and feeds her toast. Though at first he must adapt to having someone new around, soon Mr. Cat comes to care for her and watch out for her. He even finds creative inspiration in the yellow flowers that appear in her footsteps outdoors. Mr. Cat searches for the name of the flower in an encyclopedia and discovers a picture of the girl, as well as some sad news about her life span. The straightforward text (translated from Chinese into Dutch and then into English) at times repeats what appears in the illustrations rather than leaving space for artistic vision and, furthermore, can be rather lengthy for a picture book. However, the smudgy, soft-edged illustrations are quite captivating. Close-ups of the girl and Mr. Cat really engage readers, and the spare use of yellow draws their eyes along. The use of white space creates tension and provides balance for several full-color spreads. The story, though, is slight, and it might leave young readers puzzled as to the little girl’s demise as well as Mr. Cat’s future now that he has been changed by his friend.

A slip of a story with quite engaging illustrations. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60537-488-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clavis

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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