Well-designed visuals hold up a somewhat flat story.

BELLA LOST AND FOUND

An indoor kitty goes out to sea by mistake.

Bella comes from a long line of sea cats but has never ventured outdoors from the lighthouse where she lives. One day, however, she slips through a door and goes outside, heading down to the water’s edge. There, she hops into a tiny, empty sailboat, is blown out to sea, hitches a ride with a whale, elicits the help of an octopus and some crabs, and then, still lost as night falls, fortuitously hears her name called and finds her way back home. The visually well-designed pages incorporate hand-lettering both as a design element within the illustrations and to depict sounds, and it is these that save the stylized digital illustrations from feeling cold and sterile. The story has bits of humor but is essentially passive. Bella shows a distinct lack of curiosity about the world around her—curiosity won’t kill this cat—and is solely focused on getting home. Happily, she does. The last page, stating that Bella feels lucky to have gone to sea and made it home, feels tacked on and doesn’t add anything to the story. The front endpapers that show Bella dreaming about her seafaring ancestors, then inserting herself in her adventure on the rear endpapers do finish it, though.

Well-designed visuals hold up a somewhat flat story. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: June 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-221861-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 9, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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

PETE THE KITTY'S FIRST DAY OF 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.

ANIMAL SHAPES

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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