Readers will happily discover that trip-trapping to friendship and cooperation is indeed a pie-worthy prize.


Trolls come in different sizes and species—as enterprising Ruby and her three brothers are about to find out.

How are they going to pick pails of blueberries for their pie if Santiago the bully won’t let them cross the creek? Each of the three brothers throws the one behind under the proverbial bus in order reach the berries. When it’s Ruby’s turn to cross Santiago’s log, she has another idea. Rather than hand over her nonexistent snack as a toll to the trollish lad, she relies on her creativity and problem-solving skills. With a blueprint, tools, and supplies, Ruby’s ingenuity—and Santiago’s surprising cooperation—manifests as a blue wooden bridge spanning both creek and misunderstandings. What could the toll be for crossing Ruby’s bridge? Pie! Following The Little Red Fort (2018), Maier and Sánchez are back with another bicultural take on a favorite folktale: “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.” The feisty Latina protagonist, red boots and all, is still being sidetracked by her older brothers and the bully of the creek, but, as in the prior book, neither Ruby’s size nor gender is an obstacle to success. Along with succinct dialogue, the refrain’s internal rhymes make for a fun read-aloud experience. Barcelona-born Sánchez’s familiar, bold illustrations form a delightful backdrop to the repurposed story, from the irate bridge bully to the stymied sibling triumvirate.

Readers will happily discover that trip-trapping to friendship and cooperation is indeed a pie-worthy prize. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-53801-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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As insubstantial as hot air.


A diverse cast of children first makes a fleet of hot air balloons and then takes to the sky in them.

Lifestyle maven Gaines uses this activity as a platform to celebrate diversity in learning and working styles. Some people like to work together; others prefer a solo process. Some take pains to plan extensively; others know exactly what they want and jump right in. Some apply science; others demonstrate artistic prowess. But “see how beautiful it can be when / our differences share the same sky?” Double-page spreads leading up to this moment of liftoff are laid out such that rhyming abcb quatrains typically contain one or two opposing concepts: “Some of us are teachers / and share what we know. / But all of us are learners. / Together is how we grow!” In the accompanying illustration, a bespectacled, Asian-presenting child at a blackboard lectures the other children on “balloon safety.” Gaines’ text has the ring of sincerity, but the sentiment is hardly an original one, and her verse frequently sacrifices scansion for rhyme. Sometimes it abandons both: “We may not look / or work or think the same, / but we all have an / important part to play.” Swaney’s delicate, pastel-hued illustrations do little to expand on the text, but they are pretty. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.2-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 70.7% of actual size.)

As insubstantial as hot air. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4003-1423-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tommy Nelson

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned.


All the reasons why a daughter needs a mother.

Each spread features an adorable cartoon animal parent-child pair on the recto opposite a rhyming verse: “I’ll always support you in giving your all / in every endeavor, the big and the small, / and be there to catch you in case you should fall. / I hope you believe this is true.” A virtually identical book, Why a Daughter Needs a Dad, publishes simultaneously. Both address standing up for yourself and your values, laughing to ease troubles, being thankful, valuing friendship, persevering and dreaming big, being truthful, thinking through decisions, and being open to differences, among other topics. Though the sentiments/life lessons here and in the companion title are heartfelt and important, there are much better ways to deliver them. These books are likely to go right over children’s heads and developmental levels (especially with the rather advanced vocabulary); their parents are the more likely audience, and for them, the books provide some coaching in what kids need to hear. The two books are largely interchangeable, especially since there are so few references to mom or dad, but one spread in each book reverts to stereotype: Dad balances the two-wheeler, and mom helps with clothing and hair styles. Since the books are separate, it aids in customization for many families.

New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned. (Picture book. 4-8, adult)

Pub Date: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6781-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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