Delightful art and charming characters can’t compensate for a flawed narrative structure.

THE CRANKYPANTS TEA PARTY

Clarissa invites her stuffed animals to a tea party, but they respond with gruff, grumpy refusals.

The animals (Elephant, Rabbit, Pig, Monkey, Bear, and Pup) all harbor different grudges, which they share with Clarissa (a paper-white, ebony-haired tot about their size) while she brightly tries to persuade them to party. “Clarissa: Let’s get started. Who’s going to bring the chairs? / Rabbit: Not me. Nuh-uh. You left me outside. I’m still damp. / Pig: I’m losing my stuffing. BECAUSE OF YOU!” All those colons and speaker designations appear throughout what could’ve been a charming story, compromising lively dialogue and disrupting narrative flow. Sadly stilted when read aloud, this book won’t find an audience with independent readers, who will find the stuffed animals and their grievances (lost stuffing, knotted shoelaces, and soap in the eyes) just a bit too infantile. Readers of any age can relate to occasionally acting like a crankypants, and they can also find much to love in such evocative, empathetic illustrations. Acrylics give color (lemony yellows, grass greens, and mellow reds) and shape (lovely, loose linework) to vivid feelings (shown effectively as weather changes). The group reaches reconciliation as Clarissa unravels a series of misunderstandings, demonstrating how heightened emotional moments can resolve and actually bring people closer together. Unfortunately, the narrative form will keep readers from appreciating all this.

Delightful art and charming characters can’t compensate for a flawed narrative structure. (Picture book. 2-6)

Pub Date: June 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5900-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A good choice for caregivers looking for a positive, uncomplicated introduction to a new baby that focuses on everything an...

I AM A BIG BROTHER

A little boy exults in his new role as big brother.

Rhyming text describes the arrival of a new baby and all of the big brother’s rewarding new duties. He gets to help with feedings, diaper changes, playtime, bathtime, and naptime. Though the rhyming couplets can sometimes feel a bit forced and awkward, the sentiment is sweet, as the focus here never veers from the excitement and love a little boy feels for his tiny new sibling. The charming, uncluttered illustrations convincingly depict the growing bond between this fair-skinned, rosy-cheeked, smiling pair of boys. In the final pages, the parents, heretofore kept mostly out of view, are pictured holding the children. The accompanying text reads: “Mommy, Daddy, baby, me. / We love each other—a family!” In companion volume I Am a Big Sister, the little boy is replaced with a little girl with bows in her hair. Some of the colors and patterns in the illustrations are slightly altered, but it is essentially the same title.

A good choice for caregivers looking for a positive, uncomplicated introduction to a new baby that focuses on everything an older sibling can do to help. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Jan. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-545-68886-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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