This will resonate with parents who are in denial about their progeny’s consistently disruptive behavior.



A little boy who disrupts the play of two girls and their pet cat finds redemption but no real consequences.

The opening verso sports a wavy line of stylized lettering: “Ella, Maddy, and Marmalade were best friends.” On the recto, the cartoonlike girls and orange cat, all with eyes closed in contentment, trot across a bare white background, nicely inviting readers to turn the page. At the turn, the girls are building a playhouse as “Toby, the boy from across the road, joined in.” Children will enjoy this understatement as they view the resultant havoc. Although Toby shows no malice, he also shows little remorse as he thrice destroys the collaborative sandbox creations of Maddy and Ella. With maddeningly stereotypical gender norms, the girls show both restraint and passive-aggressiveness in reaction to Toby’s behavior. All three children are wide-eyed, pen-and-ink moppets, with the girls in dresses and Toby wearing a superhero’s cape. Marmalade is a cutesy, large-headed cat who infuriates the girls by taking a fancy to Toby. When Toby frightens Marmalade up a tree, his cape then provides a means of rescue, and the next day, all three children and the cat play together happily. The artwork and layout are reminiscent of a mid-1970s aesthetic, an odd environment for a theme that seems to value individualistic, destructive behavior over collaborative, creative play.

This will resonate with parents who are in denial about their progeny’s consistently disruptive behavior. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: July 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4814-2046-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug.


What to do when you’re a prickly animal hankering for a hug? Why, find another misfit animal also searching for an embrace!

Sweet but “tricky to hug” little Hedgehog is down in the dumps. Wandering the forest, Hedgehog begs different animals for hugs, but each rejects them. Readers will giggle at their panicked excuses—an evasive squirrel must suddenly count its three measly acorns; a magpie begins a drawn-out song—but will also be indignant on poor hedgehog’s behalf. Hedgehog has the appealingly pink-cheeked softness typical of Dunbar’s art, and the gentle watercolors are nonthreatening, though she also captures the animals’ genuine concern about being poked. A wise owl counsels the dejected hedgehog that while the prickles may frighten some, “there’s someone for everyone.” That’s when Hedgehog spots a similarly lonely tortoise, rejected due to its “very hard” shell but perfectly matched for a spiky new friend. They race toward each other until the glorious meeting, marked with swoony peach swirls and overjoyed grins. At this point, readers flip the book to hear the same gloomy tale from the tortoise’s perspective until it again culminates in that joyous hug, a book turn that’s made a pleasure with thick creamy paper and solid binding.

Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-571-34875-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Good bedtime reading.


Only polar bears are allowed on Polar Bear Island, until Kirby, a friendly, creative penguin, arrives on the scene.

On the verso of the first double-page spread, large white lettering proclaims against an azure sky: “Polar Bear Island was peaceful and predictable. Parker, the mayor, planned to keep it that way.” Below, Parker—paint can in left paw—can be seen facing his sign: “Welcome to Polar Bear Island. No Others Allowed.” On the recto, Kirby floats into view on an ice floe, with hat, scarf, and overstuffed suitcase. When Kirby arrives, Parker grudgingly allows her an overnight stay. However, she soon proves her worth to the other bears; she has invented Flipper Slippers, which keep extremities warm and reverse from skates to snowshoes. Now Kirby is allowed to stay and help the bears make their own Flipper Slippers. When her family shows up with more inventions, Parker feels compelled to give them a week. (Presumably, the penguins have made the 12,430-mile-trip from the South Pole to the North Pole, characterized merely as “a long journey.”) A minor crisis permanently changes Parker’s attitudes about exclusivity. The text is accessible and good fun to read aloud. The weakness of the ostensible theme of granting welcome to newcomers lies in the fact that all the newcomers are immediately, obviously useful to the bears. The cartoonlike, scratchboard-ish graphics are lighthearted and full of anthropomorphic touches.

Good bedtime reading. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2870-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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