A semiclever twist that lends itself to far more imaginative play in illustration than text.

THE TREE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT

As the title indicates, arboreal hijinks inspired by the classic rhyme.

The tale begins recognizably enough: “Here is the boy / up in the tree / where he built a house / overlooking the sea.” Then there is a pesky fly, followed by a lizard that snaps at that fly. But the narrative halts its cumulative efforts partway through to take a different turn. Jack has built a treehouse full of pulleys, levers, ropes and ladders. There is a rabbit, enticed by a carrot on a string, who powers a device to fan the monkey. Not to mention the speedy pineapple-delivery system for the squirrels. Verburg interrupts the expected rhyme to falteringly point out the wonders of the treehouse as the cat “jumps on the swings, / the ladder, the birdbath, / the marvelous things / Jack made with his tools.” The invitation to closely inspect Teague’s saturated art is unnecessary. Readers will be eagerly peering through branches to catch all the details of their own accords. The cumulative narration begins again, only to be halted by the storytime bell; however, this time the rhythm is better preserved. Jack, in fact, reads the same story that they are all in!

A semiclever twist that lends itself to far more imaginative play in illustration than text. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-439-85338-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

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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Animated and educational.

I'M A HARE, SO THERE!

A hare and a ground squirrel banter about the differences between related animals that are often confused for one another.

Jack is “no Flopsy, Mopsy, or Cottontail,” but a “H-A-R-E, hare!” Like sheep and goats, or turtles and tortoises, rabbits and hares may look similar, but hares are bigger, their fur changes color in the winter, and they are born with their eyes wide open. As the ground squirrel (not to be mistaken for a chipmunk (even though Jack cheekily calls it “Chippie”) and Jack engage in playful discussion about animals, a sneaky coyote prowls after them through the Sonoran Desert. This picture book conveys the full narrative in spirited, speech-bubbled dialogue set on expressive illustrations of talking animals. Dark outlines around the characters make their shapes pop against the softly blended colors of the desert backgrounds. Snappy back-and-forth paired with repetition and occasional rhyme enhances the story’s appeal as a read-aloud. As the story progresses, the colors of the sky shift from dawn to dusk, providing subtle, visual bookends for the narrative. One page of backmatter offers a quick guide to eight easily confused pairs, and a second turns a subsequent exploration of the book into a seek-and-find of 15 creatures (and one dessert) hidden in the desert. Unfortunately, while most of the creatures from the seek-and-find appear in poses that match the illustrations in the challenge, not all of them are consistently represented. (This book was reviewed digitally with 7-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 53.3% of actual size.)

Animated and educational. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-12506-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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