Candyland meets Barney & Friends in this debut picture book about a loving family living on a farm.
The Pops are much like any other family except that they grow wild-cherry lollipops in their orchard and have chickens that lay marshmallows on their farm. Barbieri takes the reader through Soda and Coco Pop’s first day at school, with the supportive presence of their parents, Lolly and Cherry. Despite the Candyland-esque theme, sweets don’t play a large role in the story. Through seven “text messages” interspersed in the book, young readers are invited to learn the meanings of words like “adopted,” “harvest,” and “unique,” which are connected to such positive commands as “Be considerate!” “Be happy!” and “Be smart!” These lessons about appropriate behavior deliver an important message. But they are not always directly linked to the story and at times feel forced and out of place. Likewise, the stock illustrations, though clean and colorful with a diverse human cast, are mostly plain and sparse in detail, failing to convey the fantastical nature of the farm. The book veers from depicting each scene word for word with split panels to leaving much of the scenery and action to the imagination. And though Soda is shaped like a bottle of soda and Cherry spreads rainbow jam on a slice of bread, the Pops’ world is almost too ordinary.
An enthusiastic but uneven tale, with a greater focus on good behavior than candy-cane forests.