Gently and agreeably thrilling.

CAPTAIN JACK AND THE PIRATES

Jack, Zack, and Caspar (King Jack and the Dragon, 2011) are back in an adventure by the seaside, complete with stormy waters…and pirates!

Bently’s rhyming narrative could be sung as a sea chantey. Pre-kindergarteners pink-cheeked Jack and brown-skinned Zack build “a galleon down by the sea” assisted by diaper-clad and towheaded Caspar, pacifier firmly clenched in his mouth. Their sand construction sports mast and boom, sand-bucket cannons, and a teddy-bear cabin boy. Oxenbury’s artwork, in a mix of full-bleed color illustrations and monochrome sketches, shows the boys hard at work on their ship. The blending of the real day at the seaside and the fanciful voyage on the high seas is beautifully done. Sun and warm sand give way to a steely gray ocean, with whitecaps and a pirate ship in the distance as the young buccaneers (“hungry for glory and enemy booty”) set out. The imaginary, scowling, sword-wielding grown-up pirates in the approaching square-rigger are comical yet ferocious enough to cause delighted shivers. The voyage ends as a brief cloudburst clears away the beachgoers, but the boys find plenty of fine booty, including ice-cream cones, offered by a pair of friendly pirates who look like Mum and Dad. The trek between the beach and the car documented on the endpapers sweetly bookends the excitement. A clear, large font and generous trim size invite the young audience in.

Gently and agreeably thrilling. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-525-42950-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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DONOVAN'S BIG DAY

It may be his mothers’ wedding day, but it’s Donovan’s big day in Newman’s (Heather Has Two Mommies, 1989, etc.) latest picture book about queer family life. Centered on the child’s experience and refreshingly eschewing reference to controversy, the book emerges as a celebration of not only Mommy’s and Mama’s mutual love but progress toward equal marriage rights for same-sex couples. Readers, however, don't know immediately know why it is “a very BIG day” for Donovan or what the “very BIG job” is that he has to do. In his affectionate, humorous gouache paintings with digital finish, Dutton cleverly includes clues in the form of family pictures in an earlier spread set inside their home, and then a later spread shows Donovan in a suit and placing a “little white satin box that Aunt Jennifer gave him” into his pocket, hinting toward his role as ring bearer. But it’s not until the third-to-last spread that he stands with his parents and hands “one shiny gold ring to Mommy [and] one shiny gold ring to Mama.” He, of course, gets to kiss the brides on the last page, lending a happily-ever-after sensibility to the end of this story about a family's new beginning. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 26, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-58246-332-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tricycle

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2011

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