True to life, if lacking cohesion.

CRANKY RIGHT NOW

Somebody’s cranky.

Like all other characters in this picture book, the first-person narrator isn’t named. She presents as a Black girl with light-brown skin, her hair styled in Afro puffs. The text details that she’s cranky for many reasons, chief among them her mischievous little brother, who is also Black and has darker brown skin and a cloudlike Afro. Illustrator Hatam adroitly uses facial expressions to depict the protagonist’s displeasure with her brother and her angst at perceived injustices meted out by her parents (mom shares the brother’s coloring while the father shares the main character’s). Such details as the narrator’s red, scowling “cranky boots” and interactions with the family’s pets add further interest. The text is masterful in its misdirection and displacement of responsibility: “It’s not my fault that certain people / have no patience at all. / And the cat ate the cookies. / Nothing is fair. / And nobody cares.” While the scenarios feel quite realistic, about three-quarters of the way through, the text begins to use end rhymes: “Then, chances are, after a good, tired flop, / The cranky in me will decide to stop.” This transition both feels disjointed from the beginning part of the book and somehow has the effect of leaching some of the emotional power from the text—and it may make some readers feel confused if not cranky.

True to life, if lacking cohesion. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68364-664-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sounds True

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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