Useful to share with children who are afraid of the water.


From the Walt Disney Animation Studios Artist Showcase series

A pink, suburban hippo is afraid to swim.

As the book opens, Holly’s imagining that she can rescue Piggy Wig, her younger sister’s favorite stuffed toy, from a tree. (Although readers see her scaling an imaginary mountain, they never see her actually fetch the toy, but it is in little Dottie’s hands in the next spread.) When Daddy arrives to take the siblings to the pool, Holly balks. Her overactive imagination creates an arctic scene with freezing water and then a scary forest waterfall. Daddy calms her down. Other scenarios follow, but each time her wise parent offers helpful suggestions. At the pool, which is full of friendly animals, Holly is still afraid, but when Piggy Wig falls in, Holly knows she must rescue him again. She starts slowly but follows Daddy’s advice and successfully braves the pool to save the toy. Daddy praises her efforts, but Dottie reminds her sister of her fear of snapping turtles. Holly goes into anxiety mode, but the turtle invites her to play. The pastel-colored anthropomorphic animals have a retro, cartoony look, and the story is paced like an animated short. (Shum is a Disney animator.) The dialogue-driven story doesn’t really go anywhere, Holly’s final, expressed fear (“what if…I never want to leave?”) completing her character arc but also lacking fizz.

Useful to share with children who are afraid of the water. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: April 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-0938-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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A forgettable tale.


Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Like marshmallow on top of caramel.


Little Bear loves everything about Christmas, but there’s one thing he loves even more.

The Bear household is busily getting ready for Christmas. Mommy Bear wraps and bakes; Daddy Bear brings home a humongous tree; Little Bear exults in it all. With each new Christmas tradition that’s introduced, from opening Christmas cards to receiving carolers, Little Bear sings a song that celebrates it. “I love ornaments, and garland, and lights on a string, / candy canes, stockings—and all of the things / that make Christmas perfect—oh, yes, I do! / But the thing that I love more than Christmas is—” But before Little Bear can complete his rhyme, each time he is interrupted by a new element of Christmas to celebrate. Since that terminal rhyme is always set up with one that ends with an “oo” sound, readers will not be surprised in the least when Mommy and Daddy interrupt him one last time with an emphatic “YOU!” It’s all so uber-idealized readers may find themselves gagging on the syrup—it even seems to get at Hattie: Daddy Bear’s smug “What an exceedingly talented family we are” has a whiff of irony to it. Warnes’ cartoon bears inhabit a cozy, middle-class home; while the carolers are clothed, the Bear family is not, but readers may notice a white marking on Mommy Bear’s chest where a string of pearls might rest.

Like marshmallow on top of caramel. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68010-208-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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