A funny-enough joke doesn’t make a story that sticks.

THE BOY WHOSE FACE FROZE LIKE THAT

An oft-heard cautionary statement comes true.

Wendell, who’s depicted with brown skin and straight black hair in the rather garish art, is a rule follower. “He never once disobeyed his parents,” reads the text that introduces the protagonist. The accompanying picture shows him equipped with every imaginable type of protective gear as he uses a skateboard to walk his dog. In an uncharacteristic moment of incredibly mild mischief-making, Wendell makes a silly face in the mirror, and (you guessed it) his “face froze like THAT!” Cox’s illustration shows Wendell facing readers, one eye screwed shut and his teeth unnaturally protruding over opposite corners of his top and bottom lips. His parents (also people of color) try to fix his face with a rolling pin and a screwdriver, to no avail. In fact, nothing can seem to thaw his face, and his speech is comically distorted for several pages. Ultimately, it’s his own acceptance of his state and his parents’ unconditional love that cause him to transform: “We love you…Just the way you are,” they say, and: “PF-F-F-F-F-F-F-F-F-F-F-F-T!…The pressure Wendell felt to be perfect and to follow the rules all the time—it let go.” With this letting go, Wendell’s face transforms back to his original appearance. The resolution is both heavy-handed and at odds with his parents’ easy acceptance—why did he feel so much pressure in the first place?

A funny-enough joke doesn’t make a story that sticks. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7624-9347-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Running Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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A cozy story that will transport readers to faraway places.

A GIFT FOR NANA

All gifts are perfect when they come from the heart.

Rabbit goes on a “journey through a green and grand forest” in order to get a gift for his nana even though it is “not even a major hare holiday.” He travels very far in search of the perfect gift and encounters many new friends whom he asks for help. Each of them proffers Rabbit something they can easily make or acquire: The moon offers a “crescent smile,” a whale proposes a glass of water, and so on. Ultimately, Rabbit finds the perfect gift for Nana all on his own, and his nana absolutely adores it. Although the story is a bit predictable, it is amusing—readers will laugh at the anthropomorphic volcano’s explosion and Rabbit’s exhaustion from his journey, among other chucklesome scenes. Smith’s gesso, oil, and cold wax illustrations are exquisite and almost ethereal. The friendly, many-eyed creature referred to as a “stickler” is at once haunting and intriguing. The moon is Tim Burton–esque and seems to glow and pop off the page. Pleased with his choice of gift, Rabbit has the moon’s smile on his face. The predominance of full-bleed double-page spreads accentuates Rabbit’s long quest. The different font sizes, styles, and colors will aid emerging readers with diction when reading aloud but might prove difficult for those with dyslexia. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A cozy story that will transport readers to faraway places. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-43033-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House Studio

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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