Sweetness with no substance


Wan takes her rhyming formula, previously applied to pumpkins, cupcakes, and more, and uses a unicorn as a vehicle for her newest outing in esteem-building.

“You are magical, my little one. / Reach for the stars, the moon, the sun.” In each image, a rotund white unicorn with flowing, rainbow-colored mane and tail, stubby yellow horn, and yellow stars on its rump poses fetchingly, gallops adorably, or leaps cunningly. It repels angry thunder clouds as it trots along a rainbow and emits stars as it’s exhorted to “sparkle and dazzle” in front of a small throng of admiring woodland animals. The artist’s signature thick, black outlines and smiley faces (except for the frowning thunder clouds) give the book a solidly cheerful feel that is reinforced by the pastel palette. Landing as it does in an environment in which an emphasis on resilience is superseding rank cheerleading in early-childhood instruction and in which empathy must be cultivated, it feels only half-baked. It’s all well and good to tell babies to “let your wondrous light shine through. / Baby, I believe in you!” But with no modeling of how to overcome adversity beyond the instruction not to “let fear stand in your way” nor even any sense that other creatures may be equally deserving of attention, it feels like the cotton candy it resembles.

Sweetness with no substance . (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-33410-4

Page Count: 14

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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Another branded entry that offers little beyond the minimum requirements.


From the Pout-Pout Fish Mini Adventure series

The Pout-Pout Fish brand expands.

Halloween is here, and Mr. Pout-Pout Fish is giving out treats from his submarine home. Those familiar with the blue striped fish will find the usual uncluttered illustrations and rhyming scheme (“Who’s at the helm / of the spooky submarine? // It’s you, Mr. Fish! / Have a happy Halloween!”). New readers may be drawn in by the colorful costumes the various fish wear as they trick-or-treat along the ocean floor. Keen-eyed readers with some pumpkin-carving experience may wonder how a jack-o’-lantern can be lit under water. This board book is a fairly standard look at Halloween, putting a popular character in common holiday trappings and adding nothing else. Fans of the holiday will have to look elsewhere for a more exciting take on Halloween’s thrills.

Another branded entry that offers little beyond the minimum requirements. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-374-30191-0

Page Count: 12

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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As warm as a hug from Grandma.


Grandma is the star in dozens of picture books for older children, but seldom is the special bond between a toddler and their grandmother portrayed in a book for very young children.

This sweet, but not saccharine, board book fills that gap. Thankfully, this grandma does not have Alzheimer’s and is not dying. She simply delights in spending time with her cherished grandchild. The narrator, a charming bear cub, is not identified as male or female, which makes it easy for both girls and boys to insert themselves in the story. Each of the six rhyming couplets is spread across double-page spreads: “I love the fun we have each day, / And all the funny things you say.” Even in its small board-book trim size, there is still plenty of room for the winsome watercolors to highlight the familiar yet memorable rituals of a day spent with a loving and patient grandma. Note: “Rory Tyger” is the collective pseudonym for the British artistic team of Richard Greaves, Tracey Simmons, and Gabrielle Murphy. Their illustrations were originally used in Good Night, Sleep Tight by Claire Freedman (2003). In that story, the little bear is resisting bedtime. This reworking is a gentle and conflict-free ode to the special love between little bear and a doting grandma.

As warm as a hug from Grandma. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-68010-524-7

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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