Clever fun carries a sweet feel-good message about real, true, loving friendships.

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MAX + XAM

Two little neighbors are best friends who love to play and do things together—until things change.

A tea-party disaster leads to blame, recrimination, and an end to their good times. Each claims to have lots of other friends, so they don’t really need each other. To prove this, each literally makes a bunch of creatively designed friends from found objects. But Max and Xam learn that there can be no fun with these inanimate friends, and they quickly realize how much they miss each other. Atonement gifts are exchanged, and happiness ensues. Hofmann-Maniyar employs straightforward, simple language, accessible to even the youngest readers or listeners. Literal-minded little readers will immediately get the delightful wordplay and take it to heart. The text, rarely more than one sentence per page, is carefully placed relative to the illustrations, with both the explosive argument and the final reconciliation shouted in huge, messy lettering. Minutely detailed illustrations in shades of blue and purple, with lots of white space interspersed, move and enhance the tale and provide lots of laughs and surprises. Bean-shaped Max and Xam, whose names do not indicate gender, are also of unknown species. Max is in blue fur with orange hands and feet. Xam is orange with rabbitlike ears and blue-clawed hands and feet. They both have stark white faces with flat, black features and pink-dot cheeks.

Clever fun carries a sweet feel-good message about real, true, loving friendships. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-78628-087-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Child's Play

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Preschool talkers aren’t likely to take the lesson to heart, but their caregivers will certainly find this chuckleworthy.

WORDY BIRDY

To say that this bird is wordy is an understatement; the motor mouth talks so much that she doesn’t listen, even when it’s in her best interests.

The talking starts first thing in the morning, with Wordy Birdy saying hello to each color in the sky at sunrise and to her own reflection in the mirror, but it doesn’t stop there. The loquacious bird talks about things she likes, things she dislikes, things she’s curious about, what she sees, facts she knows, and sometimes stories she embellishes a bit (“This one time, I totally went swimming with a narwhal”). Her friends are all disgruntled expressions and raised eyebrows, but they are loyal nonetheless (readers may not see why, though, as the self-centered bird is not at all likable). When her ceaseless yammering lands Wordy Birdy in danger, they come to her rescue…and even bring about a modest change in her behavior. Friends Squirrel, Rabbit, and Raccoon are the real stars here. Their droll expressions and unsurprised reactions to Wordy Birdy’s indifference to their warnings are laugh-out-loud funny, especially to adults who may be reading this aloud and recognize some familiar behavior. Mottram’s seemingly digital illustrations have an Over the Hedge aesthetic, and the dialogue balloons that crowd the spreads emphasize just how much talking Wordy Birdy does.

Preschool talkers aren’t likely to take the lesson to heart, but their caregivers will certainly find this chuckleworthy. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1929-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught...

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A PROBLEM?

A child struggles with the worry and anxiety that come with an unexpected problem.

In a wonderful balance of text and pictures, the team responsible for What Do You Do With an Idea (2014) returns with another book inspiring children to feel good about themselves. A child frets about a problem that won’t go away: “I wished it would just disappear. I tried everything I could to hide from it. I even found ways to disguise myself. But it still found me.” The spare, direct narrative is accompanied by soft gray illustrations in pencil and watercolor. The sepia-toned figure of the child is set apart from the background and surrounded by lots of white space, visually isolating the problem, which is depicted as a purple storm cloud looming overhead. Color is added bit by bit as the storm cloud grows and its color becomes more saturated. With a backpack and umbrella, the child tries to escape the problem while the storm swirls, awash with compass points scattered across the pages. The pages brighten into splashes of yellow as the child decides to tackle the problem head-on and finds that it holds promise for unlooked-for opportunity.

A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught situations, this belongs on the shelf alongside Molly Bang’s Sophie books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943-20000-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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