A light dose of problem-solving with a climactic dash of suspense, all tightly wrapped in warm feelings.


His classmates’ (understandable) reluctance to accept affectionate squeezes makes Wally the boa constrictor sad.

Wally—cast in Ashdown’s crayon-and-watercolor drawings as by far the largest student but with big eyeglasses that give him a particularly harmless look—gets lots of hugs at home. But when he tries to give Bella the mouse a birthday hug she flees into her cubby, and efforts with other members of his diverse animal class go similarly. “Just be your cuddly self, Wally,” advises his mom. “Soon your friends will let you hug.” The best he can get, though, is verbal praise from a distance until the teacher sees his tears and elicits from him a promise to hug gently. Nonetheless, in a closing twist (so to speak), Wally is so excited by the ensuing collective clinch that he gets carried away. The panicked expressions of his fellow students set up the final page, where Wally delivers not a bone-crushing squeeze but a big…wait for it…kiss. Whew! Young readers will have no trouble finding sympathy for points of view on both sides of the hug. The episode could also serve as a discussion starter about inappropriate displays of affection or general physical contact.

A light dose of problem-solving with a climactic dash of suspense, all tightly wrapped in warm feelings. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0404-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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Echoes of Runaway Bunny color this exchange between a bath-averse piglet and his patient mother. Using a strategy that would probably be a nonstarter in real life, the mother deflects her stubborn offspring’s string of bath-free occupational conceits with appeals to reason: “Pirates NEVER EVER take baths!” “Pirates don’t get seasick either. But you do.” “Yeesh. I’m an astronaut, okay?” “Well, it is hard to bathe in zero gravity. It’s hard to poop and pee in zero gravity too!” And so on, until Mom’s enticing promise of treasure in the deep sea persuades her little Treasure Hunter to take a dive. Chunky figures surrounded by lots of bright white space in Segal’s minimally detailed watercolors keep the visuals as simple as the plotline. The language isn’t quite as basic, though, and as it rendered entirely in dialogue—Mother Pig’s lines are italicized—adult readers will have to work hard at their vocal characterizations for it to make any sense. Moreover, younger audiences (any audiences, come to that) may wonder what the piggy’s watery closing “EUREKA!!!” is all about too. Not particularly persuasive, but this might coax a few young porkers to get their trotters into the tub. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25425-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2011

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Just the thing to get uncertain youngsters jazzed for a first day—at school or anywhere.


Barnes and Brantley-Newton team up for a follow-up to The King of Kindergarten (2019).

From the very first page, it’s clear that young MJ Malone is ready to face the world—and school. Once Mom bestows her with a glittery tiara and dubs her the queen of kindergarten, MJ is determined to fulfill her duties—brighten up every room she enters, treat others with kindness, and offer a helping hand. Barnes infuses each page with humor and a sense of grace as the immensely likable MJ makes the most of her first day. Barnes’ prose is entertaining and heartwarming, while Brantley-Newton’s vivid and playful artwork will be easily recognizable for anyone who’s seen her work (Grandma’s Purse, 2018; Becoming Vanessa, 2021). The illustrator adds verve to the bold young heroine’s character—from the colorful barrettes to the textured appearance of her adorable denim jumper, the girl has style and substance. MJ Malone embodies the can-do spirit every parent hopes to spark in their own children, though even shy kindergarteners will gladly find a friend in her. MJ and her family are Black; her classroom is diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Just the thing to get uncertain youngsters jazzed for a first day—at school or anywhere. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: May 24, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-11142-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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