Cute but a little muddled and ultimately failing to break new ground

MARY HAD A LITTLE LIZARD

In this wordless picture book, a pet lizard avoids separation anxiety by stowing away in its owner’s backpack on the first day of school.

Frontmatter pages depict the little lizard cuddled up next to the snoozing Mary’s pillow. The lizard wakes the flaxen-haired white child, plainly expecting a day of play, but Mary’s mother (a grown-up version of Mary) gestures urgently at her watch: clearly something is going on. As the lizard waits, puppylike, at the door with leash dangling from its mouth, Mary sadly packs her backpack—so of course the lizard crawls in. Although Mary sternly gestures for it to stay concealed, predictably, the lizard—possibly the cutest iguana anyone ever did see—sneaks out and wreaks mild havoc to the delight of Mary’s racially diverse classmates and displeasure of her hip, black teacher. Harren’s figures are of the “big eyes” aesthetic, though their expressions are largely ones of snub-nosed merriment rather than Gothic gloom. While the specifics of the premise are unusual, the overall story and treatment are not. Children will wonder at the (fairly) matter-of-fact way the teacher orders the lizard out of the classroom—and the way the chagrined but obedient reptile obeys. There is no scolding for Mary, just a mildly exasperated trip to the school for her mom, who leashes the lizard up and drags it home.

Cute but a little muddled and ultimately failing to break new ground . (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5107-1635-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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THE PIGEON HAS TO GO TO SCHOOL!

From the Pigeon series

All the typical worries and excuses kids have about school are filtered through Willems’ hysterical, bus-loving Pigeon.

Told mostly in speech balloons, the bird’s monologue will have kids (and their caregivers) in stitches at Pigeon’s excuses. From already knowing everything (except whatever question readers choose to provide in response to “Go ahead—ask me a question. / Any question!”) to fearing learning too much (“My head might pop off”), Pigeon’s imagination has run wild. Readers familiar with Pigeon will recognize the muted, matte backgrounds that show off the bird’s shenanigans so well. As in previous outings, Willems varies the size of the pigeon on the page to help communicate emotion, the bird teeny small on the double-page spread that illustrates the confession that “I’m… / scared.” And Pigeon’s eight-box rant about all the perils of school (“The unknown stresses me out, dude”) is marvelously followed by the realization (complete with lightbulb thought bubble) that school is the place for students to practice, with experts, all those skills they don’t yet have. But it is the ending that is so Willems, so Pigeon, and so perfect. Pigeon’s last question is “Well, HOW am I supposed to get there, anyway!?!” Readers will readily guess both the answer and Pigeon’s reaction.

Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04645-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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A terrific choice for the preschool crowd.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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TIME FOR SCHOOL, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Little Blue Truck learns that he can be as important as the big yellow school bus.

Little Blue Truck is driving along the country road early one morning when he and driver friend Toad come across a big, yellow, shiny school bus. The school bus is friendly, and so are her animal passengers, but when Little Blue Truck wishes aloud he could do an important job like hers, the school bus says only a bus of her size and features can do this job. Little Blue Truck continues along, a bit envious, and finds Piggy crying by the side of the road, having missed the bus. Little Blue tells Piggy to climb in and takes a creative path to the school—one the bus couldn’t navigate—and with an adventurous spirit, gets Piggy there right on time. The simple, rhyming text opens the story with a sweet, fresh, old-fashioned tone and continues with effortlessly rhythmical lines throughout. Little Blue is a brave, helpful, and hopeful character young readers will root for. Adults will feel a rush of nostalgia and delight in sharing this story with children as the animated vehicles and animals in innocent, colorful countryside scenes evoke wholesome character traits and values of growth, grit, and self-acceptance. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A terrific choice for the preschool crowd. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-41224-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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