TINY & HERCULES

This friendly cousin of Laura Vaccaro Seeger’s Dog and Bear (2007) is filled with understated humor and even-tempered loyalty. Tiny, a pleasantly round, gray elephant, and Hercules, a reddish-brown mouse, support each other through five stories. When Tiny tries ice skating but “things [don’t] go quite as planned” (as the narration calmly describes his swooping collapses), Hercules lays claim to his name by sailing across the ice holding Tiny aloft. They alternate as helper and helpee, dedicated to each other’s feelings. The sweetest example occurs when an agreement to knit each other sweaters goes awry due to the diminutive size of Hercules’s knitting needles. Tiny doesn’t let his friend feel bad for even a jiffy; he simply places the miniscule sweater-attempt on his forehead, gracefully commenting, “This is the nicest hat I’ve ever had.” Plenty of serene white space makes every page feel relaxed and open. Medium-saturated hues fill in fine, black outlines, and some of Tiny’s postures are priceless. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-59643-253-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2009

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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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Willems’ formula is still a winner.

THE PIGEON NEEDS A BATH!

From the Pigeon series

The pigeon is back, and he is filthy!

Readers haven’t seen the pigeon for a couple of years, not since The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? (2012), and apparently he hasn’t bathed in all that time. Per the usual routine, the bus driver (clad in shower cap and bathrobe) opens the story by asking readers to help convince the pigeon to take a bath. Though he’s covered in grime, the obstreperous bird predictably resists. He glares at readers and suggests that maybe they need baths. With the turn of the page, Willems anticipates readers’ energetic denials: The pigeon demands, “YEAH! When was the last time YOU had a bath?!” Another beat allows children to supply the answer. “Oh.” A trio of flies that find him repulsive (“P.U.!”) convinces him it’s time. One spread with 29 separate panels depicts the pigeon adjusting the bath (“Too wet!…Too cold.…Too reflective”) before the page turn reveals him jumping in with a spread-filling “SPLASH!” Readers accustomed to the pigeon formula will note that here the story breaks from its normal rhythms; instead of throwing a tantrum, the pigeon discovers what readers already know: “This is FUN!” All the elements are in place, including page backgrounds that modulate from dirty browns to fresh, clean colors and endpapers that bookend the story (including a very funny turnabout for the duckling, here a rubber bath toy).

Willems’ formula is still a winner. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9087-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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