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

WHAT'S THE MATTER, MARLO?

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: Jan. 26, 2021

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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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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A wandering effort, happy but pointless.

DRAGONS LOVE TACOS

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 Books

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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