A sweet, reassuring validation of the power of a close friendship and empathy.



What are best friends for? Everything.

Marlo and the narrator are BFFs; they read, laugh, and play games, usually accompanied by Marlo’s dog, Hooper. Today’s different. Marlo doesn’t want to play and won’t explain. The protagonist knows something’s wrong and tells a joke to brighten Marlo’s mood. The ploy doesn’t work; in fact, Marlo gets uncontrollably angry and runs away. After searching, the narrator discovers Marlo, crying, and finally understands his overwhelming emotions without his saying anything: Observing Hooper’s collar hanging from a branch over a patch of newly dug earth, the narrator realizes that Marlo is very sad. Hooper has died—a point never actually stated; the illustration speaks poignant volumes. What can a best friend do except offer a tight hug, express sorrow, and cry together with him? This heartfelt story plumbs deep feelings with economic prose, and the expressive illustrations work wonderfully with the text. Marlo’s unarticulated but profound emotions are depicted via bold black scribblings and overwhelming, black backgrounds. Text in increasingly large fonts is incorporated effectively into some illustrations, as when the narrator frantically hunts for Marlo and shouts his name. Sharp-eyed readers will notice that the dog, seen through Marlo’s door in the opening spread, is absent following the setup pages. Both children are white, brown-haired, and attired in typical kid garb.

A sweet, reassuring validation of the power of a close friendship and empathy. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-22323-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Fans of this popular series will find this a rewarding addition to family Easter celebrations.


From the God Gave Us You series

Bergren and Bryant attempt to explain Easter to young children in a gentle, nonthreatening manner, with partial success.

When Little Cub questions her father about Easter, Papa Bear explains the religious significance of the holiday in various symbolic ways to his cub. He uses familiar things from their world, such as an egg and a fallen tree, to draw parallels with aspects of the Christian story. Papa Bear discusses his close relationships with Jesus and God, encouraging Little Cub to communicate with God on her own. The theme focuses on the renewal of life and the positive aspects of loving God and Jesus. Easter is presented as a celebration of eternal life, but the story skirts the issue of the crucifixion entirely. Some adults will find this an inadequate or even dishonest approach to the Easter story, but others will appreciate the calm and soothing text as a way to begin to understand a difficult subject. Bryant’s charming watercolor illustrations of the polar bear family, their cozy home and snowy forest scenes add to the overall mellow effect.

Fans of this popular series will find this a rewarding addition to family Easter celebrations. (Religion/picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-73072-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: WaterBrook

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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A wandering effort, happy but pointless.


From the Dragons Love Tacos series

The perfect book for kids who love dragons and mild tacos.

Rubin’s story starts with an incantatory edge: “Hey, kid! Did you know that dragons love tacos? They love beef tacos and chicken tacos. They love really big gigantic tacos and tiny little baby tacos as well.” The playing field is set: dragons, tacos. As a pairing, they are fairly silly, and when the kicker comes in—that dragons hate spicy salsa, which ignites their inner fireworks—the silliness is sillier still. Second nature, after all, is for dragons to blow flames out their noses. So when the kid throws a taco party for the dragons, it seems a weak device that the clearly labeled “totally mild” salsa comes with spicy jalapenos in the fine print, prompting the dragons to burn down the house, resulting in a barn-raising at which more tacos are served. Harmless, but if there is a parable hidden in the dragon-taco tale, it is hidden in the unlit deep, and as a measure of lunacy, bridled or unbridled, it doesn’t make the leap into the outer reaches of imagination. Salmieri’s artwork is fitting, with a crabbed, ethereal line work reminiscent of Peter Sís, but the story does not offer it enough range.

A wandering effort, happy but pointless. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3680-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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