Perhaps “Sweetie” would more aptly be named “Bittersweet.” (Picture book. 2-7)


A bird learns the value of freedom in this import from China via Australia.

Sweetie the wild myna (a type of starling native to Asia) loves freedom and the ability to sing at will that comes with it. Soon Sweetie comes across an urban human family that seems “happy and friendly,” and the bird decides to join it, surrendering to captivity and the family’s joy in its new pet. Sweetie recognizes the family’s kind treatment: Sweetie has a comfortable cage, excellent food, and company now and again. But no matter what the family does, something still feels wrong to Sweetie, who has lost all desire to sing and thinks only of freedom. When the family finally realizes why Sweetie is “always so melancholy,” they drive the bird “back to the mountains” and to what appears to be a cross between a zoo and a nature preserve (the lettering above the entrance is the only text not translated into English from Chinese). Sweetie, now joyous, flies blissfully over the “jungle” of captive animals, unaware or uncaring of the other animals who stare, perhaps longingly, after the bird. Black, cut-paper silhouettes backed on tan paper mix with sporadic background pencil sketches to create quiet but intricate illustrations. Stiff language (“I am a myna who loves to fly and sing joyfully”), as flat as the silhouettes, undercuts the effectiveness of the emotional message.

Perhaps “Sweetie” would more aptly be named “Bittersweet.” (Picture book. 2-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-76036-035-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Starfish Bay

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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A terrific choice for the preschool crowd.

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Little Blue Truck learns that he can be as important as the big yellow school bus.

Little Blue Truck is driving along the country road early one morning when he and driver friend Toad come across a big, yellow, shiny school bus. The school bus is friendly, and so are her animal passengers, but when Little Blue Truck wishes aloud he could do an important job like hers, the school bus says only a bus of her size and features can do this job. Little Blue Truck continues along, a bit envious, and finds Piggy crying by the side of the road, having missed the bus. Little Blue tells Piggy to climb in and takes a creative path to the school—one the bus couldn’t navigate—and with an adventurous spirit, gets Piggy there right on time. The simple, rhyming text opens the story with a sweet, fresh, old-fashioned tone and continues with effortlessly rhythmical lines throughout. Little Blue is a brave, helpful, and hopeful character young readers will root for. Adults will feel a rush of nostalgia and delight in sharing this story with children as the animated vehicles and animals in innocent, colorful countryside scenes evoke wholesome character traits and values of growth, grit, and self-acceptance. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A terrific choice for the preschool crowd. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-41224-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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


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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