Lizzy is prone to extreme emotions and flights of fancy in this richly illustrated tale. She begins the day scared at the...

It's Just So

A rhyming, read-aloud debut children’s book that tracks the mercurial adventures of a young girl during her first day at a new school.

Lizzy is prone to extreme emotions and flights of fancy in this richly illustrated tale. She begins the day scared at the thought of a brand-new school and is a bit intimidated as she boards the bus: “It’s just so…tall.” Although the school is “so big” and the books are “so wordy,” Lizzy quickly takes over the class by jumping on the desk “and surpised [sic] everyone, / acting out stories— / what crazy good fun!” From then on, Lizzy’s day becomes increasingly outrageous. Learning numbers is “just so...mathemagical,” science is “just so...fizz-astro-fantastical,” learning about animals is “just so...wombatty,” and so on. This fanciful language, combined with the whimsical illustrations, may amuse young children. However, some invented words, such as “oompa-pa chugga-doo-zippidy-la” and “oookie glub-dripping,” may be confusing. Lizzy’s madcap day also includes some low moments, as when she sits alone at lunch: “It’s just so lonely...me only,” she says—a sentiment she repeats at bedtime. But she soon gets up the courage to talk to other kids, immediately making friends, and at bedtime something “fantastical” happens when animals from her day, including a bunny, turtle, and a dog, crawl into her bedroom to snuggle. As a protagonist, Lizzy is a bit of a cipher. For example, she’s intimidated by the tall bus, yet she still bravely climbs the stairs and feels “oh-so-big”; she immediately takes command during the reading lesson, but at lunchtime she’s lonely. The action sequences become frenzied; a science lesson, for example, includes split atoms along with the beakers and test tubes. Indeed, the book’s overall portrayal of school moves from intriguing to disorienting and hysterical, and the illustrations reflect this chaos. Lizzy’s distinctive appearance, meanwhile, includes a hairstyle that falls somewhere between Conan O’Brien’s and Pippi Longstocking’s.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-9970851-0-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Notable Kids Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 25, 2016

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Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S VALENTINE

Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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A joyful celebration.

FAMILIES BELONG

Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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