WILLOW AND BUNNY

On the overly sweet side but will appeal widely.

A symbiotically bonded rabbit and a willow tree weather a tornado.

Heeding an unseen voice, Bunny seeks “a safe place to grow.” He finds it with Willow, whose mass, strength, and pendant, leafy branches offer a protective refuge from the open wood. Through the seasons, Bunny grazes clover, grooms himself under Willow’s generous canopy, and shelters in a den beneath her. One evening, a powerful storm brings “an angry spiral” to the woodland…and frightened animals to Willow’s sheltering expanse. Willow keeps them safe all night, but morning reveals the damage Willow has suffered. As she views her reflected injuries in the creek, “at last, Willow wept.” Casting Bunny and other animals in gardening roles, Schulte renders them untangling Willow’s branches and carrying “her cuttings into the wood to plant.” Eventually, after “many moons, many rains… // and many warm, sunny days,” new trees begin to grow. While other animals often visit Willow, Bunny remains with his old friend: “Every day was theirs to share.” Caldecott honoree Denise’s digital illustrations confer a visual disequilibrium, combining blurred landscapes and naturalistic, highly rendered animals. The storm’s eerie light is compelling, but a preponderance of suffused, golden backlight, combined with Schulte’s personified dialogue, lends a Disney-fied vibe to the story.

On the overly sweet side but will appeal widely. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2023

ISBN: 9781542025690

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2023

SLUG IN LOVE

Sweet, reassuring fun—and a story to fully embrace.

A slug longs for a hug and finds it unexpectedly.

Doug the slug would really like a hug and plods on, seeking affection. But a caterpillar, bug, spider, and worm want no part of hugging a slug. They are just not feeling it (might they feel sluggish?), voicing their disdain in no uncertain terms with expressions like, “Grimy, slippy!” and “Squelchy, slimy!” What’s a slug to do? Undeterred, Doug keeps trying. He meets Gail, a snail with crimson lipstick and hip, red glasses; she happens to be as grimy and squelchy as he is, so he figures she is the hugger of his dreams. The two embark upon a madcap romantic courtship. Alas, Gail also draws the (slimy) line at hugging Doug. Finally, mournful Doug meets the best hugger and the true love of his life, proving there’s someone for everyone. This charmer will have readers rooting for Doug (and perhaps even wanting to hug him). Expressed in simple, jaunty verses that read and scan smoothly, the brief tale revolves around words that mainly rhyme with Doug and slug. Given that the story stretches vocabulary so well with regard to rhyming words, children can be challenged after a read-aloud session to offer up words that rhyme with slug and snail. The colorful and humorous illustrations are lively and cheerful; googly-eyed Doug is, like the other characters, entertaining and expressive. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sweet, reassuring fun—and a story to fully embrace. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-66590-046-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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