This sweet story of friendship is sure to win over even the grumpiest of listeners.

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SWASHBY AND THE SEA

Old Capt. Swashby’s peaceful seaside home is disturbed when a gregarious little girl and her granny move into the once-empty house next door.

The only neighbor Capt. Swashby has ever wanted was his old friend the sea, so when new neighbors began to take over the beach—and even Swashby’s deck—without permission, he leaves a message in the sand for the interlopers that reads, “NO TRESPASSING.” The sea “fiddle[s]” with Swashby’s message and washes away most of the letters, leaving the word “SING,” which the little girl does “while dancing up and down [along] Swashby’s deck.” It changes two other unwelcoming messages to invitations for the girl and her granny to “W_ISH” upon a starfish and “PL_AY” in the sand. Then, after building a sand castle (following Capt. Swashby’s grouchily delivered advice), the girl is washed out to sea—to be rescued by the old salt, beginning a wholehearted friendship. The feeling of place is solidified by Martinez-Neal’s use of color, which breathes the life into this story; the muted beige, blue, and turquoise palette is perfect for a beach tale. The cantankerous old coot is depicted as a white man with an enormous gray beard while the girl and her granny are depicted with brown skin, exuberant Afros, and enormous spectacles.

This sweet story of friendship is sure to win over even the grumpiest of listeners. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-70737-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love.

THE LOVE LETTER

A mysterious love letter brightens the lives of three forest animals.

Appealing mixed-media illustrations made of ink, gouache, brush marker, and colored pencil combine with a timely message that one kind act can start a chain reaction of kindness. When Hedgehog, Bunny, and Squirrel stumble in turn upon a formally composed love letter, each finds their life improved: Squirrel is less anxious, Bunny spreads goodwill through helpfulness, and Hedgehog is unusually cheerful. As the friends converge to try to discover who sent the letter, the real author appears in a (rather) convenient turn: a mouse who wrote an ode to the moon. Though disappointed that the letter was never meant for them, the friends reflect that the letter still made the world a happier place, making it a “wonderful mix-up.” Since there’s a lot of plot to follow, the book will best serve more-observant readers who are able to piece the narrative cleanly, but those older readers may also better appreciate the special little touches, such as the letter’s enticing, old-fashioned typewriter-style look, vignettes that capture small moments, or the subdued color palette that lends an elegant air. Drawn with minimalist, scribbly lines, the creatures achieve an invigorating balance between charming and spontaneous, with smudged lines that hint at layers of fur and simple, dotted facial expressions.

A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-274157-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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