A perfunctory plotline, buried among visual wonders that more than compensate.

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BENNY'S BRIGADE

In this bland but surreal tale two children find a tiny walrus in a nut.

Prying open a coconut-sized walnut, sisters Elsie and Theo free little Benny—who thanks them profusely, accompanies them to school, where he sings a sad song about missing the sea, and then sets out for home aboard a milk-carton boat. Three adventuresome slugs (looking much like Benny, aside from lacking tusks) come along for the ride but, being salt-averse, debark before reaching the sea. The language is downright fustian (the children "were sorry to see Benny and the slugs go, but now it was time for school, and they had adventures of their own to which they must attend") and printed in blocks of small type that look lost on the large pages. Moreover, Bradford's narrative has none of the illustrations' luxuriant strangeness. Frequently zooming in for extreme close-ups, Hanawalt floats the simply drawn children and their blubbery buddy slightly above leafy, grassy meadows that are thickly strewn with both low wildflowers and an astonishing menagerie of onlooking birds, insects, lizards and other wildlife. A huge foldout poster featuring crowds of picnicking walruses, slugs and fantasy animals in a "peaceable kingdom"–style scene serves as dust jacket and also echoes the culminating spread within.

A perfunctory plotline, buried among visual wonders that more than compensate. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-936365-61-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: McSweeney's McMullens

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Everything that readers have come to love about the Elephant & Piggie books is present—masterful pacing, easy-to-follow,...

MY NEW FRIEND IS SO FUN!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Can Gerald and Piggie’s friendship withstand the friendly overtures of Brian Bat?

When Snake informs Gerald that Piggie is playing with Brian Bat, he is at first complacent. Brian is “nice,” he observes; Snake concurs—after all, he says, “Brian is my Best Friend!” Their mutual reflection that Piggie and Brian “must be having a super-duper fun time!” turns, however, to paranoia when they realize that if their best pals “are having that much fun together, then… / …maybe they do not need us” (that last is printed in teeny-tiny, utterly demoralized type). Gerald and Snake dash/slither to put an end to the fun. Their fears are confirmed when the two new buddies tell them they have “been playing BEST FRIEND GAMES!”—which, it turns out, means making drawings of their respective best friends, Gerald and Snake. Awww. While the buildup to the friends’ confrontation is characteristically funny, there’s a certain feeling of anticlimax to the story’s resolution. How many young children, when playing with a new friend, are likely to spend their time thinking of the friends that they are not playing with? This is unfortunate, as the emotions that Gerald and Snake experience are realistic and profound, deserving of more than a platitudinous, unrealistic response.

Everything that readers have come to love about the Elephant & Piggie books is present—masterful pacing, easy-to-follow, color-coded speech bubbles, hilarious body language—except an emotionally satisfying ending. (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7958-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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