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WHEN I DRAW A PANDA

Sadly, uninspiring.

A child and an imaginary panda draw together in this picture book.

The unnamed narrator, a young child with dark hair and light skin, loves to draw. When the child draws a panda and then a hat for the panda to wear, “he is my panda,” and he goes on to respond to instructions from an unseen “they” by applying his own vision to what they’ve asked for. Clearly the panda is a stand-in for the imagination of the child. Unfortunately, a repetitive point/counterpoint expressed in various iterations of “when they say to draw a perfect… / my panda prefers to draw an imperfect…” becomes a one-note push for the inspiration and fulfillment found in drawing without rules or expectations. And the murky nature of who “they” are—overbearing parents? teachers?—makes for an uncomfortable divisiveness. While the illustrations are loose and flow-y, as befits a story about unhampered creativity, the viewpoint of each double-page spread stagnates: Readers look straight on at panda, child, and blackboard with no change in perspective, and only occasionally does the viewpoint move closer or farther away. The type occasionally leaves its ordered structure, but that’s just not enough to give the overall story any real animation or originality. Readers may be encouraged to draw without expectation of perfection—the point of the story—but the us-versus-them aspect is off-putting. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22% of actual size.)

Sadly, uninspiring. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5148-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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CARPENTER'S HELPER

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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TIME FOR SCHOOL, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

A terrific choice for the preschool crowd.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
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  • New York Times Bestseller


  • IndieBound Bestseller

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 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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