What’s not to love about this endearing and effervescent picture book?


With support from Nana, Britta sets out to help one of her favorite trees heal.

Britta is a capable, vivacious girl who insists that her two favorite trees—Apple and Magnolia—are best friends. Exuberant artwork with vigorous brush strokes depicts brown-skinned, curly-haired Britta smiling up at her arboreal friends in the daytime and dancing near them as they sway at night. When Magnolia’s branches begin to droop, irresistible Britta, flanked by her pets, brainstorms ways to help Magnolia connect with Apple, measuring the distance between the trees as the months progress: She creates a cup-and-string telephone, knits an enormous scarf, and hangs a string of lights, all in a determined attempt to connect the two trees. Britta’s light-skinned, bespectacled Dad and her dark-skinned, plugged-in older sister, Bronwyn, are skeptical of Britta’s efforts. In an effective use of repetition, her father “nicely” rejects Britta’s ideas, and Bronwyn pooh-poohs everything with the qualifiers absolutely, positively. Wise, dark-skinned Nana encourages Britta by sharing wisdom, prompting ideas with questions, and joining in her tree-healing campaign. As the author’s note mentions, cutting-edge science underlies this seemingly whimsical story, and observant readers will notice that Britta’s observations, measurements, and data-keeping capture the scientific method in action. Nana’s assertions about the power of “unusual friendships” encourage readers to consider this heartwarming tale in both literal and figurative ways.

What’s not to love about this endearing and effervescent picture book? (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Feb. 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-947888-35-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flyaway Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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An engaging story arguing for the marriage of technology with creativity and play.

DOLL-E 1.0

A young girl receives a puzzling gift.

Young Charlotte has always been the most tech-savvy member of her family, helping her mother with a tablet and her father with the smart TV. After Charlotte’s parents observe a news report cautioning against letting kids get “too techy,” the couple presents Charlotte with a doll. The doll doesn’t move or think—it simply sits and utters the word “Ma-ma.” Charlotte reasons that for a doll to talk it must have a power supply, and with a few modifications and a little imagination, Charlotte’s doll becomes Doll-E 1.0. The STEM-friendly narrative is brought to life with charming pencil-and-watercolor illustrations, edited in Photoshop. The scratchy lines are reminiscent of the pictures children like Charlotte sketch at their drawing boards, and the dynamic compositions burst with energy. Charlotte is an engaging character, expressive and thoughtful in equal measure. Charlotte’s doll is adorably rendered, looking mostly like any other common doll but just unique enough that little ones may want one of their own. Charlotte and her family present white; little dog Bluetooth is a scruffy, white terrier.

An engaging story arguing for the marriage of technology with creativity and play. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-51031-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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Well-meant but distressing.


From the Pout-Pout Fish series

The pout-pout fish finds more to pout about.

In the eighth book in this popular series (not counting holiday miniadventures, board books, and novelty tie-ins), Mr. Fish and his friends discover “a big…BIG…MESS” in the ocean. In rhyming stanzas, with an occasional refrain, Diesen tells of the dismal discovery, research, discussion, and consensus: “The problem is… / Us!!!” The friends agree to work together to solve it, inviting readers’ help. Hanna illustrates with his familiar cartoonish characters, letting his imagination fly with examples of what surrounds these ocean-dwellers as they journey to the trash mountain: straws, cups, and plastic bags; bits of plastic toys; bottles and cans; candy wrappers and pizza boxes; old electronics; broken sandals; tires; an abandoned ukelele; an Earth Day balloon (oh, the irony); six-pack rings; and more. Mr. Seahorse’s vehicle belches smelly exhaust; a fish behind him wears a gas mask. Two final spreads show the cooperative cleanup. Mr. Seahorse now rides a bicycle. Humorous details will keep readers coming back to the pictures again and again, but it’s not all laughs: There is an entangled turtle, a fish strangling in a six-pack ring, and more than one skeleton. An older audience will certainly get the point; young listeners may need a reminder from the adult reader to understand who really consumes fast food and leaves litter behind—the real “us” that threaten actual marine life. A final page offers suggestions for learning more, taking action, and sharing.

Well-meant but distressing. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-374-30934-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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