Tender, reassuring, and lots of fun.


What is behind that alluring red door?

Two friends see the red door with the gold handle and have very different reactions to what might be behind it. Morton, a horned bunny with a lizardlike tail, tells of amazing possibilities and happy endings, presented in red text. Maybe there will be balloons and candy or spaceships, carnivals, and puppies, and wondrous magic. Bogart, a large, fuzzy, purple creature, counters each of Morton’s starry-eyed prognostications with dire predictions of danger and doom, especially to bunnies. Maybe there’s a scary wolf behind this door that eats bunnies. Maybe it collects pointy forks to eat all the bunnies, and it will take Morton’s imagined spaceships to find more bunnies in outer space. The terrors, presented in blue text, grow harsher and more frightening, but Morton is ever ready with more bright imaginings. Morton’s innate sweetness and joy reassure Bogart, and perhaps they will open the door together. Horn’s take on the friendship between the pessimist and the optimist speaks directly to young readers whose fears of the unknown can sometimes overwhelm their innocent imaginations. Burton’s very bright illustrations depict a mashup of the scary and the fun, with Morton’s happy thoughts always coming out ahead. Sharp-eyed readers will also notice another creature looking on, watching the developments. Children and their grown-ups can read together in two voices, perhaps switching characters for the repeat that is sure to come.

Tender, reassuring, and lots of fun. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-18949-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Imprint

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.


A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Safe to creep on by.


Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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