Good intentions notwithstanding, this French import is not really a reason to celebrate.

MR. BEAR'S BIRTHDAY

From the Mr. Bear series

Mr. Bear’s birthday guests are on their way!

There’s a party at Mr. Bear’s house, and a madcap group is invited: animals (among them an “always cold” pup in knit cap and puffy coat), humans (one is a pale goth girl accessorized with a snake), and even a visitor “from far away” (an aggressively green, party-hat–clad ET). The eclectic guests include a sloth zooming in a wheelchair, one child with a single parent and another with two dads, and a gender-nonconforming child with a stereotypical boy’s haircut who “likes to wear dresses.” All the aforementioned humans present White; there is only one guest of color, a Black child with an exuberant Afro who, in a rather offensive touch, bears a comb as a gift. “Everyone is invited” is an earnest message, but it gets lost among the long, meandering list of attendees, with the promised party an afterthought. Set against brilliant backgrounds, the dapper guests are illustrated in a portrait style, with their prominent heads gazing out at readers. Labeled, disappointingly flimsy fold-out flaps concealing the gifts accentuate the fantastical ambience, with a “portable radio” present from a rhino in his undies and a first-edition Proust from a bibliophile bear. An almost comically oversized trim has scale problems: It’s cumbersome for lap children, but the foldouts are too small to use in group settings.

Good intentions notwithstanding, this French import is not really a reason to celebrate. (Board book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-03631-825-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Twirl/Chronicle

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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Fun format; bland text.

LOVEBLOCK

From the Block Books series

A hefty board book filled with ruminations on the nature of love.

While love is the topic of this board book, it’s the inventive gatefolds and charmingly vintage illustrations that readers will fall for. Brimming with sweeping declarations along the lines of “Love is / strong. // You have my back and I’ll always have yours,” the text sounds like a series of greeting cards strung together. It’s benign enough, but are most toddlers interested in generic proclamations about love? Some statements, like the ones on “unsinkable” hippos or a panda parent holding a cub “steady,” could introduce new vocabulary. At least there’s plenty of winsome critters to fawn over as the surprisingly sturdy flaps tell dramatic little ministories for each cartoon-style animal species. A downcast baby giraffe looks longingly up at a too-high tasty branch; lift a flap to bring an adult giraffe—and the delicacy—down to the baby, or watch an adventurous young fox retreat into a fold-down–flap burrow to learn that “my heart will always be home with you.” At points, the pages are tricky to turn in the correct order, but clever touches, like a series of folds that slow readers down to a sloth’s speed, make up for it. The book concludes with a gatefold revealing a vibrant playground populated with racially and ethnically diverse humans; two are wheelchair users.

Fun format; bland text. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3153-2

Page Count: 84

Publisher: Abrams Appleseed

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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Although a bit on the slight side, this offering is infused with a warm, light humor just right for cuddling up with a young...

THE BIGGEST KISS

This title previously published in the U.K. takes a cozy look at all kinds of kisses.

Walsh’s rhyming text is full of cutesy rhythms: “Kisses on noses, kisses on toes-es. Sudden kisses when you least supposes.” Sometimes the phrasing stumbles: “Who likes to kiss? I do! I do! Even the shy do. Why not try, too?” But toddlers and young preschoolers will probably not mind. They will be too engaged in spotting the lively penguin on each spread and too charmed by Abbot’s winsome illustrations that fittingly extend the wording in the story. Patient dogs queue up for a smooch from a frog prince, cool blue “ ’normous elephants” contrast strikingly with bright red “little tiny ants” and a bewildered monkey endures a smattering of lipstick kisses. Be the kiss small or tall, one to start or end the day, young readers are reminded that “the very best kiss… / is a kiss from you!” Perhaps no big surprise but comforting nonetheless.

Although a bit on the slight side, this offering is infused with a warm, light humor just right for cuddling up with a young tyke or sharing with a gathering for storytime.     (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Dec. 20, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2769-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2011

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