It’s not the freshest take on friendship, but the toys bring the point home.

DUCK AND PENGUIN ARE NOT FRIENDS

Can these toys get along? Not if they can help it.

Duck and Penguin—the toys in question—are the beloved stuffed-animal pals of BFFs Betty and Maud, respectively. The two love playing together and are convinced their cloth companions are equally enamored of their activities—swinging, building sandcastles, baking, painting, and playing baby dolls. However, the girls are so caught up in their own enjoyment that they’re oblivious to the enmity between the plush animals. When Betty and Maud briefly leave Duck and Penguin on their own, the toys seize the chance to escape being “itty-bitty babies” and do the things they testily endured earlier—but this time, they’ve chosen to do so; unsurprisingly, they have fun. Trouble was, the toys disliked having friendship and games imposed on them. Children will likely get this unoriginal message, but there’s also a cautionary note for well-meaning caregivers who overenforce togetherness on kids. The energetic, expressive, and childlike illustrations will elicit chuckles as spreads portray how much Duck and Penguin initially oppose each other; incorporated onomatopoeic words reinforce their displeasure. The toys are depicted the worse for wear: Duck trails a thread from an unraveling seam, Penguin’s losing stuffing. The ever smiling, brown-haired girls are appealing: Betty is white and bespectacled; Maud is black and wears her hair in two afro puffs.

It’s not the freshest take on friendship, but the toys bring the point home. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68263-132-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Making friends isn’t always this easy and convenient.

BUDDY'S NEW BUDDY

From the Growing With Buddy series , Vol. 3

How do you make a new friend when an old one moves away?

Buddy (from Sorry, Grown-Ups, You Can’t Go to School, 2019, etc.) is feeling lonely. His best friend just moved across town. To make matters worse, there is a field trip coming up, and Buddy needs a bus partner. His sister, Lady, has some helpful advice for making a new pal: “You just need to find something you have in common.” Buddy loves the game Robo Chargers and karate. Surely there is someone else who does, too! Unfortunately, there isn’t. However, when a new student arrives (one day later) and asks everyone to call her Sunny instead of Alison, Buddy gets excited. No one uses his given name, either; they just call him Buddy. He secretly whispers his “real, official name” to Sunny at lunch—an indication that a true friendship is being formed. The rest of the story plods merrily along, all pieces falling exactly into place (she even likes Robo Chargers!), accompanied by Bowers’ digital art, a mix of spot art and full-bleed illustrations. Friendship-building can be an emotionally charged event in a child’s life—young readers will certainly see themselves in Buddy’s plight—but, alas, there is not much storytelling magic to be found. Buddy and his family are White, Sunny and Mr. Teacher are Black, and Buddy’s other classmates are racially diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Making friends isn’t always this easy and convenient. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-30709-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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A full-hearted valentine.

THIS IS A SCHOOL

A soaring panegyric to elementary school as a communal place to learn and grow.

“This is a kid,” Schu begins. “This is a kid in a class. This is a class in a hall….” If that class—possibly second graders, though they could be a year to either side of that—numbers only about a dozen in Jamison’s bright paintings, it makes up for that in diversity, with shiny faces of variously brown or olive complexion well outnumbering paler ones; one child using a wheelchair; and at least two who appear to be Asian. (The adult staff is likewise racially diverse.) The children are individualized in the art, but the author’s narrative is addressed more to an older set of readers as it runs almost entirely to collective nouns and abstract concepts: “We share. We help. / This is a community, growing.” Younger audiences will zero in on the pictures, which depict easily recognizable scenes of both individual and collective learning and play, with adults and classmates always on hand to help out or join in. Signs of conflict are unrealistically absent, but an occasional downcast look does add a bit of nuance to the general air of eager positivity on display. A sad face at an apartment window with a comment that “[s]ometimes something happens, and we can’t all be together” can be interpreted as an oblique reference to pandemic closings, but the central message here is that school is a physical space, not a virtual one, where learning and community happen. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A full-hearted valentine. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0458-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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