He may be just a toddler, but Max is getting a little old.

MAX & RUBY AND THE BABYSITTING SQUAD

From the Max and Ruby Adventure series

Has Ruby learned nothing? Underestimating Max never goes well.

Ruby and her friend Louise have an idea. Branding themselves the Babysitting Squad, they decide to hire themselves out—informing Max, Ruby’s younger brother, that he is neither professional nor bonded and so cannot be part of it. Soon the girls are off to their first job, however, with Max riding along in his full-sized Saw-toothed Dirt Bucketer and somehow also towing his Rock Crusher. Telling Max to play outside, the girls have big plans, but their charge, Percy, would rather wear a skunk suit and spray people with aftershave and mouthwash than cooperate. However, when Percy gets a look at Max digging in the backyard, once more the underestimated little brother saves the day. Ruby and Max inhabit a world in which people book babysitters on long corded phones and elementary-age babysitters boast that they are “bonded” without explanation. Even readers who accept this may wonder why Max is going along on the job when he’s been told he can’t. Beginning with insufficient setup, the book ends with a thunk (Max just turns on a sprinkler) rather than an actual conclusion. It all prompts the obvious question: Is it time to retire the sibling duo that has brought us such joy over the years? (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 30.3% of actual size.)

He may be just a toddler, but Max is getting a little old. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6328-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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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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WITH ALL MY HEART

A caregiving bear shares with its cub how love has defined their relationship from the first moment and through the years as the cub has grown.

With rhymes and a steady rhythm that are less singsong-y than similar books, Stansbie seems to have hit a sweet spot for this offering on the I-love-you-always shelf. Readers follow the adult and child as they share special moments together—a sunset, a splash in a pond, climbing a tree, a snuggle—and the adult tells the child that the love it feels has only grown. Stansbie also takes care not to put promises in the adult bear’s mouth that can’t be delivered, acknowledging that physical proximity is not always possible: “Wherever you are, / even when we’re apart… // I’ll love you forever / with all of my heart.” The large trim size helps the sweet illustrations shine; their emphasis is on the close relationship between parent and child. Shaped peekaboo windows offer glimpses of preceding and succeeding pages, images and text carefully placed to work whatever the context. While the die cuts on the interior pages will not hold up to rough handling, they do add whimsy and delight to the book as a whole: “And now that you’re bigger, / you make my heart sing. / My / beautiful / wonderful / magical / thing.” Those last three adjectives are positioned in leaf-shaped cutouts, the turn of the page revealing the roly-poly cub in a pile of leaves, three formed by the die-cuts. Opposite, three vignettes show the cub appreciating the “beautiful,” the “wonderful,” and the “magical.”

Sweet. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68412-910-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Silver Dolphin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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