A cheery run through the ABCs, with a bit of a message about lining up and awaiting one’s turn slipped in.

NOT YET ZEBRA

As animals queue up alphabetically to have their portraits painted, pesky Zebra keeps trying to jump the line.

In exuberantly spattered watercolors, Annie, a small, redheaded white girl with an easel, invites Aardvark, Bear, and the other animals forward one at a time for broadly brushed pictures with upper- and lowercase letters (all assembled in a closing gallery on the rear endpapers). Along the way she gently but repeatedly has to push importunate Zebra to the back: “I need Gorilla and Hamster and… / What did I say? / Not yet, Zebra. Please go away!” Zebra (not unlike Mo Willems’ Pigeon, though nonverbal) turns out to be hard to discourage, but sad looks, disguises, and pushy behavior all turn out to be equally fruitless. And, when Zebra’s turn finally, finally comes, he’s nowhere to be found—having, no surprise, fallen asleep in bed. Like the young artist, budding abecedarians will be amused. There are few surprises in the lineup of animals, but the mix is a lively one, and even the animals who are observing proper order have plenty of personality on offer.

A cheery run through the ABCs, with a bit of a message about lining up and awaiting one’s turn slipped in. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-571-34288-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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It’s a bit hard to dance, or count, to this beat.

ONE MORE DINO ON THE FLOOR

Dinos that love to move and groove get children counting from one to 10—and perhaps moving to the beat.

Beginning with a solo bop by a female dino (she has eyelashes, doncha know), the dinosaur dance party begins. Each turn of the page adds another dino and a change in the dance genre: waltz, country line dancing, disco, limbo, square dancing, hip-hop, and swing. As the party would be incomplete without the moonwalk, the T. Rex does the honors…and once they are beyond their initial panic at his appearance, the onlookers cheer wildly. The repeated refrain on each spread allows for audience participation, though it doesn’t easily trip off the tongue: “They hear a swish. / What’s this? / One more? / One more dino on the floor.” Some of the prehistoric beasts are easily identifiable—pterodactyl, ankylosaurus, triceratops—but others will be known only to the dino-obsessed; none are identified, other than T-Rex. Packed spreads filled with psychedelically colored dinos sporting blocks of color, stripes, or polka dots (and infectious looks of joy) make identification even more difficult, to say nothing of counting them. Indeed, this fails as a counting primer: there are extra animals (and sometimes a grumpy T-Rex) in the backgrounds, and the next dino to join the party pokes its head into the frame on the page before. Besides all that, most kids won’t get the dance references.

It’s a bit hard to dance, or count, to this beat. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1598-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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