A gentle, silly picture book about balancing fun and responsibility.

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THE BRUCE SWAP

From the Mother Bruce series

Bruce the bear is not fun.

He doesn’t like biking fast or making sculptures out of yogurt or dismounting from branches like an Olympic gymnast. And he definitely doesn’t like fun visits from friends and family. Bruce’s family loves Bruce, but they wish he were just a little more fun—that is, until they meet Bruce’s cousin Kevin, who looks just like Bruce (except for Bruce’s trademark scowl) but acts nothing like him. Bruce doesn’t know about Kevin’s visit, so he isn’t home when Kevin arrives. When Kevin shows up and introduces himself to Bruce’s immediate family—which consists of a motley crew of earnest mice and forever-hungry geese—he stages a candy fight, orders 26 pizzas, and turns the house into an indoor pool. When a minibus full of Kevin’s friends pulls up in front of the house, the fun goes a little too far. The mice and geese begin to miss their beloved, unfun bear—and to appreciate the need to be unfun, at least some of the time. The story’s textured, cartoon illustrations employ panels, speech bubbles, and an endearingly drawn cast of woodland characters to build humor into unexpected moments and to give the plot momentum. The dialogue is cheeky and conversational, deftly tucking clever jokes for adults between lines that clearly appeal to children. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-24-inch double-page spreads viewed at 41.7% of actual size.)

A gentle, silly picture book about balancing fun and responsibility. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-368-02856-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A solid if message-driven conversation starter about the hard parts of learning.

THE MAGICAL YET

Children realize their dreams one step at a time in this story about growth mindset.

A child crashes and damages a new bicycle on a dark, rainy day. Attempting a wheelie, the novice cyclist falls onto the sidewalk, grimacing, and, having internalized this setback as failure, vows to never ride again but to “walk…forever.” Then the unnamed protagonist happens upon a glowing orb in the forest, a “thought rearranger-er”—a luminous pink fairy called the Magical Yet. This Yet reminds the child of past accomplishments and encourages perseverance. The second-person rhyming couplets remind readers that mistakes are part of learning and that with patience and effort, children can achieve. Readers see the protagonist learn to ride the bike before a flash-forward shows the child as a capable college graduate confidently designing a sleek new bike. This book shines with diversity: racial, ethnic, ability, and gender. The gender-indeterminate protagonist has light brown skin and exuberant curly locks; Amid the bustling secondary cast, one child uses a prosthesis, and another wears hijab. At no point in the text is the Yet defined as a metaphor for a growth mindset; adults reading with younger children will likely need to clarify this abstract lesson. The artwork is powerful and detailed—pay special attention to the endpapers that progress to show the Yet at work.

A solid if message-driven conversation starter about the hard parts of learning. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-02562-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion/LBYR

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way.

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THE PIGEON HAS TO GO TO SCHOOL!

From the Pigeon series

All the typical worries and excuses kids have about school are filtered through Willems’ hysterical, bus-loving Pigeon.

Told mostly in speech balloons, the bird’s monologue will have kids (and their caregivers) in stitches at Pigeon’s excuses. From already knowing everything (except whatever question readers choose to provide in response to “Go ahead—ask me a question. / Any question!”) to fearing learning too much (“My head might pop off”), Pigeon’s imagination has run wild. Readers familiar with Pigeon will recognize the muted, matte backgrounds that show off the bird’s shenanigans so well. As in previous outings, Willems varies the size of the pigeon on the page to help communicate emotion, the bird teeny small on the double-page spread that illustrates the confession that “I’m… / scared.” And Pigeon’s eight-box rant about all the perils of school (“The unknown stresses me out, dude”) is marvelously followed by the realization (complete with lightbulb thought bubble) that school is the place for students to practice, with experts, all those skills they don’t yet have. But it is the ending that is so Willems, so Pigeon, and so perfect. Pigeon’s last question is “Well, HOW am I supposed to get there, anyway!?!” Readers will readily guess both the answer and Pigeon’s reaction.

Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04645-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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