A subtle, deceptively simple book about inclusion, hospitality, and welcoming the “other.” (Picture book. 3-6)

THE BIG UMBRELLA

Illustrator Bates applies her signature watercolor, gouache, and pencil style to a quiet story about a smiling umbrella, a tale sparked by a conversation with her seventh-grade daughter, co-author Juniper Bates.

The eponymous rain protection is a big, red, friendly, helpful umbrella that sits near the front door and “likes to spread its arms wide” when it rains. As the pages turn, the umbrella grows in size, its smile ever widening, “to give shelter.” It gathers all in—tall, hairy, plaid. “It doesn’t matter how many legs you have,” the omniscient narrator assures, as a basset hound droops forlornly outside its shelter before being welcomed in. While the book does not bill itself as political, it is hard to read it without thinking of current events—and of the umbrella as a metaphor for the United States. “Some people worry that there won’t be enough room under the big umbrella,” the narrator warns. “But the amazing thing is…there is.” The final spread of this gentle picture book is an illustration of diverse people in a park: a black jogger; a white man in a wheelchair with a small dog on a leash; a brown woman wearing a hijab with a butterfly in her palms; two men and three children (in child seats), all of different skin colors, riding a tandem bike.

A subtle, deceptively simple book about inclusion, hospitality, and welcoming the “other.” (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0658-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2017

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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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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