QUILL SOUP

A STONE SOUP STORY

From South African, an animal retelling of the “Stone Soup” folktale.

The stranger in this version is Noko, a porcupine. Having traveled without food “through the Valley of a Thousand Hills,” he arrives in a village hungry. When the villagers refuse him food, he creates a “thick and rich” soup with nothing but hot water and three of his own quills—and, of course, all the other ingredients that the villagers contribute. Impressed by Noko’s claim to have fed this soup to the king, they fork over carrots, mealies, beans, spinach, and more. The king, not present but imagined, is a lion; the villagers are Meerkat, Warthog, Rabbit, and bunches of others. The setting, called a village, is both bustling and ambiguous—an amalgam of village, forest, and jungle. The scenes are intensely crowded and bursting with energy; both animals and backgrounds are styled in two dimensions, so everything overlaps on one plane. These animals aren’t living in a specific static location so much as a world of bright red, yellow, blue, green, black, and white shapes and patterns. Occasionally an element seems industrial, such as small rounded rooms connected by ladders and tunnels that evoke factory pipes, but it’s not definite. Flap copy says that illustrator Blankenaar took inspiration from African sources ranging from broad to specific: “Tanzanian artwork, the wood sculpture of Western Africa, and the costumes and masks of the Bwa people of Burkina Faso.”

Visually dynamic. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62354-147-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 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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A terrific choice for the preschool crowd.

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TIME FOR SCHOOL, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Little Blue Truck learns that he can be as important as the big yellow school bus.

Little Blue Truck is driving along the country road early one morning when he and driver friend Toad come across a big, yellow, shiny school bus. The school bus is friendly, and so are her animal passengers, but when Little Blue Truck wishes aloud he could do an important job like hers, the school bus says only a bus of her size and features can do this job. Little Blue Truck continues along, a bit envious, and finds Piggy crying by the side of the road, having missed the bus. Little Blue tells Piggy to climb in and takes a creative path to the school—one the bus couldn’t navigate—and with an adventurous spirit, gets Piggy there right on time. The simple, rhyming text opens the story with a sweet, fresh, old-fashioned tone and continues with effortlessly rhythmical lines throughout. Little Blue is a brave, helpful, and hopeful character young readers will root for. Adults will feel a rush of nostalgia and delight in sharing this story with children as the animated vehicles and animals in innocent, colorful countryside scenes evoke wholesome character traits and values of growth, grit, and self-acceptance. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A terrific choice for the preschool crowd. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-41224-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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