SPECIAL DELIVERY

Earning high marks for clever design, this picture book resembles the shipping carton around which the story revolves. After mother tries out her new vacuum cleaner, the box in which it came reappears on the porch, newly decorated and addressed to “Mother.” She speculates aloud about what could be in it: “What could it be?” begins the repeat. Treasure? “The box is so heavy and it rumbles like rocks.” A giant stuffed toy? (There’s something soft and furry inside.) A huge ball? A soft plump kitten? Finally she opens the box, flap by flap—and, thanks to a pop-up effect, the child who is hiding inside reaches out for a hug. Wrapped in ribbed brown paper, the covers feature die-cut carrying holes just right for peeking into (or out of) and for enticing young viewers to investigate Reichstein’s sketchy, soft-toned domestic scenes within. It’s a playful episode, rich in the sort of primary-level suspense and release that post-toddlers love—and the child in the illustrations could be either boy or girl. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7358-1318-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2000

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A recipe for storytime fun.

THE SECRET INGREDIENT

From the Mitzi Tulane, Preschool Detective series

Mitzi Tulane, preschool detective, is back, and this time she’s got helpers.

Mitzi’s friend Max is at her apartment on a play date, and muffins are on the snack menu. Mitzi is a black child with dark brown skin, and Max, with light, pinkish skin and blond hair, appears white like Mitzi’s father and baby brother, Kev. When the friends get the muffins, Max warns Mitzi that her dad might’ve sneaked something into them: “Like…spinach,” he whispers. Mitzi is aghast. Max speaks from experience, since his mother has indulged in such vegetable-hiding treachery, and Mitzi decides to investigate. When her magnifying glass can’t provide conclusive evidence about a suspicious speck that may or may not be a vegetable, they sneak across the hall, past Mitzi’s dad on the phone and the super (a white man called “Tall Dan”), to consult with science-loving Latino twins Juan and Juanita. A microscope is no help, but Bun Bun (their pet rabbit) gobbles up the crumb, leading everyone to conclude that it was a bit of carrot. Juanita writes up a report detailing the lapin expert witness’s findings, which the friends share with Tall Dan as they head back to Mitzi’s apartment, triumphant. McLaughlin’s text is both funny and respectful of its protagonists, while Ohi’s colorful, cartoon illustrations ramp up the humor in this story and add visual interest with setting details.

A recipe for storytime fun. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-449-81916-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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Despite misgivings, it’s a sweet story centering on a bright, black birthday girl, and on that front it takes the cake.

MITZI TULANE, PRESCHOOL DETECTIVE IN WHAT'S THAT SMELL?

From the Mitzi Tulane, Preschool Detective series , Vol. 1

Mitzi Tulane may be a preschool detective, but she is also a birthday girl.

She doesn’t know that yet, though. Her first clue is that she smells a new smell in the kitchen. Baby Kev doesn’t give her any help in figuring things out, and neither does Daddy. She finds him shaving in the bathroom, which is odd since it’s Sunday, and he usually stays “scratchy all weekend.” Undaunted, Mitzi continues to investigate, and she gets yet more clues when grandparents, aunties, uncles, and cousins arrive. They add to the matter-of-fact multiracial cast of characters—the extended family includes aunties and cousins with a range of skin tones and hair textures, while Mitzi, with brown skin and curly dark hair, appears black, and her fair-skinned parents and baby brother are white. Confusingly, relatives’ clothing doesn’t seem to remain the same from one spread to the next, so it’s hard to track their presence in different scenes as Mitzi solves the mystery that it is her birthday. (That eponymous smell from the kitchen? It’s her birthday cake.) It’s also a bit hard to believe that such a smart, inquisitive child would be unaware of her approaching fourth birthday when this is such a big deal to most kids.

Despite misgivings, it’s a sweet story centering on a bright, black birthday girl, and on that front it takes the cake. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: July 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-449-81915-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2016

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