The power of teamwork becomes the people’s power, all wrapped in a cheerful romp.


Collaboration is the key to success in this picture book.

The story enticingly begins with five double-page spreads, wordless except for onomatopoeia, as a cat leaps at a big-eyed crab sitting on a rock and the crab pinches back. The cat flees and leaps after a small bird next, who flies away with a startled “AAAH!” The illustrations, done in a collagelike style that combines simple shapes, deftly play with visual sequencing and wonderfully expressive characters to cleverly set up the story. After the bird lands near the crab, the text begins, with the crab waxing poetic: “Oh! If only I might escape this life of muddy scuttling and fly.” To which the bird replies, in a surfer-dude tone (the distinct voices of each character are a joy), that it wishes for “big, snapping claws” in order to “pinch that cat on the nose.” The two have an epiphany: combine forces and become “crabbird!” The illustration shows the bird clutching the crab as they fly through the air. The combinations don’t stop, and “crabbird!” becomes “craburtlebird!” and “birdraburtlebear!” as they pick up a turtle and a bear to become even more “UNSTOPPABLE!” Or so they think—until they spy bulldozers clearing their forest home for a shopping mall. Fear not! The power of cooperation reaches its zenith in a satisfying, high-spirited conclusion (that includes illustrated human diversity, most notably in the form of a president who’s a woman of color and a vigorously multiracial Congress).

The power of teamwork becomes the people’s power, all wrapped in a cheerful romp. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-6504-2

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)


Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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As insubstantial as hot air.


A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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