Even rough animals need affection.

Rhyming verses with bang-on scansion declare that animals who are considered noncuddly still need cuddles: “Despite their lumpy, bumpy hide, / toothy mouths stretched open wide, // just like me and just like you, / crocodiles need kisses too.” These porcupines, rattlesnakes, vultures, sharks, tigers, tarantulas, and gorillas also need squeezes, nuzzles, smooches, and tickles. The animals’ textually described dangerousness juxtaposes with the art, which shows gentle creatures: A rattlesnake’s “pointy fangs” are too rounded to puncture anything; tigers evoke mischievous toddlers; a porcupine’s “prickly spines, / sharpened quills raised up in lines,” far from being raised, actually angle downward as the critter peers meekly out from behind a tree. A shark fin is daunting, and a tarantula’s huge legs crawling out toward readers may startle them, but both sharks and tarantulas have affable smiles and harmless, curved bodies after each page turn reveals the whole creature. An ending twist changes the crocodile into a (brown-skinned) child in a crocodile suit, receiving hugs from a (lighter-skinned) adult. Dullaghan’s illustrations use acrylic paint texture well. However, they have a casual air and a lack of punch that, instead of creating meaningful juxtaposition with the verses, dilute the text’s hardiness and specificity. Sometimes the art leans toward the saccharine—rattlesnake bodies forming a heart—and Colby’s cloying ultimate moral that “children need affection too” isn’t particularly useful to child or adult readers.

Genial but forgettable. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-451-48007-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Likely to be popular with young Pete the Cat fans and parents seeking a gentle introduction to preschool.


From the Pete the Cat series

The popular character enjoys storytime, painting, and a snack on the very first day of preschool.

The younger incarnation of Pete the Cat packs his backpack that he picked out from the store himself, gets a snack from his mom, and rides the school bus with his big brother, Bob (who isn’t much bigger than Pete, sizewise). At school, Pete meets his stylish teacher, Mrs. Lopez, and fellow feline classmates while keeping his signature cool. The day ends with Pete declaring: “Preschool is awesome! Pete loves everything!” James Dean’s big-eyed cats populate the simply drawn scenes that look as though they were painted in preschool-esque fashion with thick swaths of tempera. At a couple of moments (when he eats his banana and declares it tasty and when he sings along) his customarily expressionless face actually breaks into a smile. Kimberly Dean’s text is uninspired, but it’s in sync with the upbeat tone of the series. Pete’s preschool experience, while not particularly realistic, is a highly positive one; refreshingly, there is no trace of the separation anxiety or anxiousness found in many first-day-of-school books.

Likely to be popular with young Pete the Cat fans and parents seeking a gentle introduction to preschool. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: June 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06243582-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: HarperFestival

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable.


You think you know shapes? Animals? Blend them together, and you might see them both a little differently!

What a mischievous twist on a concept book! With wordplay and a few groan-inducing puns, Neal creates connections among animals and shapes that are both unexpected and so seemingly obvious that readers might wonder why they didn’t see them all along. Of course, a “lazy turtle” meeting an oval would create the side-splitting combo of a “SLOW-VAL.” A dramatic page turn transforms a deeply saturated, clean-lined green oval by superimposing a head and turtle shell atop, with watery blue ripples completing the illusion. Minimal backgrounds and sketchy, impressionistic detailing keep the focus right on the zany animals. Beginning with simple shapes, the geometric forms become more complicated as the book advances, taking readers from a “soaring bird” that meets a triangle to become a “FLY-ANGLE” to a “sleepy lion” nonagon “YAWN-AGON.” Its companion text, Animal Colors, delves into color theory, this time creating entirely hybrid animals, such as the “GREEN WHION” with maned head and whale’s tail made from a “blue whale and a yellow lion.” It’s a compelling way to visualize color mixing, and like Animal Shapes, it’s got verve. Who doesn’t want to shout out that a yellow kangaroo/green moose blend is a “CHARTREUSE KANGAMOOSE”?

Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0534-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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