A fun-filled story that delivers the true nature of the Olympian spirit.

READ REVIEW

MAX AND MARLA

A boy and an owl learn what it takes to become true Olympians in this picture book.

Best friends Max and Marla, the narrator tells readers, are Olympians. Although Max is a little boy and Marla is an owl, the narrator insists they are “real-life, honest to goodness, cross your heart…Olympians.” When Max and Marla set out to sled down a snowy mountain slope but don’t slide, they realize that their sled needs wax and that “preparation is key.” Attempt No. 2 ends when an out-of-control wind takes them into a tree. But “true Olympians never give up,” and after a recovery sick day, when the Olympians learn that “taking care of yourself is...probably most important of all,” they try again. Despite their careful preparations, the sled crashes once more, and Max and Marla end up as balls of snow, which they turn into snow angels as they extricate themselves. The summary attribute, an attitude that turns “obstacles…into victories,” is underscored by the final illustration, showing Max and Marla bestowing doughnut “medals” to each other. Author/illustrator Boiger’s story is graceful, and her limited-palette watercolor illustrations in well-designed combinations—including spot illustrations, full-page bleeds, and double-page spreads—effectively keep readers’ attention on the story and do not overwhelm with gratuitous detail.

A fun-filled story that delivers the true nature of the Olympian spirit. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-17504-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations.

I BELIEVE I CAN

Diversity is the face of this picture book designed to inspire confidence in children.

Fans of Byers and Bobo’s I Am Enough (2018) will enjoy this book that comes with a universal message of self-acceptance. A line of children practices ballet at the barre; refreshingly, two of the four are visibly (and adorably) pudgy. Another group tends a couple of raised beds; one of them wears hijab. Two more children coax a trepidatious friend down a steep slide. Further images, of children pretending to be pirates, dragons, mimes, playing superhero and soccer, and cooking, are equally endearing, but unfortunately they don’t add enough heft to set the book apart from other empowerment books for children. Though the illustrations shine, the text remains pedagogic and bland. Clichés abound: “When I believe in myself, there’s simply nothing I can’t do”; “Sometimes I am right, and sometimes I am wrong. / But even when I make mistakes, I learn from them to make me strong.” The inclusion of children with varying abilities, religions, genders, body types, and racial presentations creates an inviting tone that makes the book palatable. It’s hard to argue with the titular sentiment, but this is not the only book of its ilk on the shelf.

Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266713-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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