BUNNY IN THE MIDDLE

Birth order matters—or does it?

Ostensibly written to reassure middle children, this sweet picture book acknowledges the special place each sibling occupies in a family. Middle kids are lucky to have someone bigger to help them—and someone smaller who needs them. They know how to assert themselves when their opinions are important; how to relent when a battle isn’t worth it; and how to negotiate conflicts to make all siblings equally happy. Sometimes middles lead; sometimes they follow; and sometimes they forge their own paths. When you’re in the middle, “you’re not too small for the big stuff” (going to school) “and not too big for the small stuff” (playing with a dollhouse). Life’s not always rosy, though; think hand-me-downs and shared bedrooms. But here’s the thing: “The best part of middle is… / you are loved all around.” What’s better than that? The child-appealing, expressive illustrations, rendered in pencil and computer enhanced, are delightful, depicting three plump, brown, floppy-eared, large-eyed bunnies cozily engaged in familiar activities (baking, playing, hiking, reading, snuggling). Kids will savor adorable details, such as children’s artwork on a bedroom wall and winsome animal students lined up for school in a tree. The second-person address avoids explicitly gendering the characters, and their activities are nicely varied. When portrayed on scooters, the bunnies wear helmets.

Charming and comforting. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-12036-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Who ya gonna call? A different snowplow book.

SCOOPER AND DUMPER

Friends don’t let friends expire in snowdrifts.

Convoluted storytelling and confusing art turn a cute premise into a mishmash of a book. Scooper’s a front loader that works in the town salt yard, replenishing the snowplows that arrive. Dumper’s her best friend, more than happy to plow and salt the roads himself. When the big city calls in Dumper to help with a snow squall, he brushes off Scooper’s concerns. Yet slippery roads and a seven-vehicle pileup launch poor Dumper onto his side in a snowbank. Can Scooper overcome fears that she’s too slow and save the day? Following a plot as succinct as this should be a breeze, but the rhyming text obfuscates more than it clarifies. Lines such as, “Dumper’s here— / let’s rock ’n’ roll! / Big city’s callin’ for / some small-town soul” can prove impenetrable. The art of the book matches this confusion, with light-blue Dumper often hard to pick out among other, similarly colored vehicles, particularly in the snowstorm. Speech bubbles, as when the city calls for Scooper’s and Dumper’s help, lead to a great deal of visual confusion. Scooper is also featured sporting long eyelashes and a bow, lest anyone mistake the dithering, frightened truck as anything but female. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 16.8% of actual size.)

Who ya gonna call? A different snowplow book. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-9268-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way.

THE PIGEON HAS TO GO TO SCHOOL!

From the Pigeon series

All the typical worries and excuses kids have about school are filtered through Willems’ hysterical, bus-loving Pigeon.

Told mostly in speech balloons, the bird’s monologue will have kids (and their caregivers) in stitches at Pigeon’s excuses. From already knowing everything (except whatever question readers choose to provide in response to “Go ahead—ask me a question. / Any question!”) to fearing learning too much (“My head might pop off”), Pigeon’s imagination has run wild. Readers familiar with Pigeon will recognize the muted, matte backgrounds that show off the bird’s shenanigans so well. As in previous outings, Willems varies the size of the pigeon on the page to help communicate emotion, the bird teeny small on the double-page spread that illustrates the confession that “I’m… / scared.” And Pigeon’s eight-box rant about all the perils of school (“The unknown stresses me out, dude”) is marvelously followed by the realization (complete with lightbulb thought bubble) that school is the place for students to practice, with experts, all those skills they don’t yet have. But it is the ending that is so Willems, so Pigeon, and so perfect. Pigeon’s last question is “Well, HOW am I supposed to get there, anyway!?!” Readers will readily guess both the answer and Pigeon’s reaction.

Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04645-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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