Sweet and pretty for bedtime or naptime—and validating to little ones all the time.

THE SECRET FAWN

Is the little child who narrates the book too little for any fun?

This gentle tale goes straight to the heart of what upsets so many little ones: missing out on adventures because they are small and young. The beginning double-page spread shows three family members staring out over a full clothesline as the text reads: “This morning, Mama saw a deer. Dad and Sara saw it too.” The narrator missed the sight while struggling to get dressed. The child recounts other examples of recently missed opportunities, then heads outside with a lump of sugar, hoping to lure the deer. Gorgeous, masterful art in MacKay’s characteristic layered dioramas that combine drawn figures with cut, often diaphanous elements accompanies every page of spare but thoughtful text, as the child encounters other signs of nature—but no deer. When the narrator encounters the fawn of the title—“Little like me”—the two greet each other with their eyes before returning home to their respective mothers. The child looks about 3 years old and perhaps too young to be allowed a wilderness wander near protective animal mothers, but the soft and dreamy tone of the art and the text excuses the story from complete realism. The child’s response to Mama’s question at the end gives further empowerment to the child, who looks and listens while someone older reads this aloud. The family is an interracial one, with White-presenting father and Asian-presenting mother. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-16-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Sweet and pretty for bedtime or naptime—and validating to little ones all the time. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6516-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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Instills a sense of well-being in youngsters while encouraging them to explore the natural world.

YOU ARE HOME WITH ME

This reassuring picture book exemplifies how parents throughout the animal kingdom make homes for their offspring.

The narrative is written from the point of view of a parent talking to their child: “If you were a beaver, I would gnaw on trees with my teeth to build a cozy lodge for us to sleep in during the day.” Text appears in big, easy-to-read type, with the name of the creature in boldface. Additional facts about the animal appear in a smaller font, such as: “Beavers have transparent eyelids to help them see under water.” The gathering of land, air, and water animals includes a raven, a flying squirrel, and a sea lion. “Home” might be a nest, a den, or a burrow. One example, of a blue whale who has homes in the north and south (ocean is implied), will help children stretch the concept into feeling at home in the larger world. Illustrations of the habitats have an inviting luminosity. Mature and baby animals are realistically depicted, although facial features appear to have been somewhat softened, perhaps to appeal to young readers. The book ends with the comforting scene of a human parent and child silhouetted in the welcoming lights of the house they approach: “Wherever you may be, you will always have a home with me.”

Instills a sense of well-being in youngsters while encouraging them to explore the natural world. (Informational picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63217-224-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little Bigfoot/Sasquatch

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug.

THE HUG

What to do when you’re a prickly animal hankering for a hug? Why, find another misfit animal also searching for an embrace!

Sweet but “tricky to hug” little Hedgehog is down in the dumps. Wandering the forest, Hedgehog begs different animals for hugs, but each rejects them. Readers will giggle at their panicked excuses—an evasive squirrel must suddenly count its three measly acorns; a magpie begins a drawn-out song—but will also be indignant on poor hedgehog’s behalf. Hedgehog has the appealingly pink-cheeked softness typical of Dunbar’s art, and the gentle watercolors are nonthreatening, though she also captures the animals’ genuine concern about being poked. A wise owl counsels the dejected hedgehog that while the prickles may frighten some, “there’s someone for everyone.” That’s when Hedgehog spots a similarly lonely tortoise, rejected due to its “very hard” shell but perfectly matched for a spiky new friend. They race toward each other until the glorious meeting, marked with swoony peach swirls and overjoyed grins. At this point, readers flip the book to hear the same gloomy tale from the tortoise’s perspective until it again culminates in that joyous hug, a book turn that’s made a pleasure with thick creamy paper and solid binding.

Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-571-34875-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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