Despite aesthetic faults, a cute story that expresses an important life lesson—treat others the way you want to be...

A SMIDGEN FOR A PIGEON

A scorned, humble Baltimore City pigeon works hard to feed his family.

Ray toils long hours hunting the streets for treasures to appease his boss, Jim, so he can provide breadcrumbs for his loving wife and daughter. It’s a dangerous life—kicks from unkind humans aren’t uncommon. Ray envies his neighbor, a carrier pigeon, who lives in a wooden house and eats lavishly. But Ray can’t hide who he is: not an angelic white dove, but a working-class rat with wings. In a moment’s notice he can fly away, though, escape his rotten life and forget all his worries. Fortunately, kids won’t get the wrong message from this book, Hobson’s first. Our hero, a family bird, knows the right thing to do in the end. The narrator urges readers to remember Ray’s story before they disparage another pigeon. The protagonist, part of a breed that’s rarely romanticized, is an unusual but apt choice for an emblem. It’s a sweet moral; one that can be extended to all beings. And it’s not the only lesson. “Why can’t people see past the dull colors of black and grey?” laments Ray, suggesting a racial undertone to the plot. The author writes in verse, and some rhymes detract from the overall story. A few of them are just plain contrived: The “carrier pigeon Rob” eats “corn on the cob.” In other instances, illogical words and phrases seem placed in sentences for the sole purpose of maintaining meter. Hobson’s painted cover illustrations are beautiful, but the gray-hued pictures within the book disappear against a poorly contrasting brown background.

Despite aesthetic faults, a cute story that expresses an important life lesson—treat others the way you want to be treated—from a unique point of view.

Pub Date: June 12, 2012

ISBN: 978-1468123388

Page Count: 26

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2012

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A joyful celebration.

FAMILIES BELONG

Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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OTIS

From the Otis series

Continuing to find inspiration in the work of Virginia Lee Burton, Munro Leaf and other illustrators of the past, Long (The Little Engine That Could, 2005) offers an aw-shucks friendship tale that features a small but hardworking tractor (“putt puff puttedy chuff”) with a Little Toot–style face and a big-eared young descendant of Ferdinand the bull who gets stuck in deep, gooey mud. After the big new yellow tractor, crowds of overalls-clad locals and a red fire engine all fail to pull her out, the little tractor (who had been left behind the barn to rust after the arrival of the new tractor) comes putt-puff-puttedy-chuff-ing down the hill to entice his terrified bovine buddy successfully back to dry ground. Short on internal logic but long on creamy scenes of calf and tractor either gamboling energetically with a gaggle of McCloskey-like geese through neutral-toned fields or resting peacefully in the shade of a gnarled tree (apple, not cork), the episode will certainly draw nostalgic adults. Considering the author’s track record and influences, it may find a welcome from younger audiences too. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-399-25248-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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