For a genuinely clever story about street skating, stick to the almost wordless classic Skates, by Ezra Jack Keats. For a...



From the I Like To Read series

Degen attempts the daunting task of writing a satisfying story using just 49 words and avoiding singsong rhymes.

Nate, a gray, skateboarding kitten, and Kate, an orange kitten enamored of hats, experience a bobble in their friendship. Words in the “-ate” and “-at” word families are used repeatedly. Nate, skate, great, grate, hate, gate, wait, and late, and hat, that, flat, and even brat are repeated often enough that beginning readers will start to recognize and anticipate them and eventually read them. Observant readers will also find some of these words or their variants in the first few illustrations. The 33 sight words are all one syllable and are also used repeatedly. The book succeeds admirably as a beginning reader. Its success as a picture book is more problematic. The story is slight, and the central conflict—hurt feelings between friends—is quickly and arbitrarily resolved with Nate’s and Kate’s mutual apologies when feelings are hurt and subsequent appreciation of each other’s enthusiasms. Thankfully, this is accomplished without any preachy adult intervention. Some grown-ups may be uncomfortable with the recurrence of “hate” and “brat,” but children will appreciate the unvarnished feelings.

For a genuinely clever story about street skating, stick to the almost wordless classic Skates, by Ezra Jack Keats. For a nonpedantic beginning reader, Degen’s offering works well enough. (Picture book/early reader. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3456-5

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught...


A child struggles with the worry and anxiety that come with an unexpected problem.

In a wonderful balance of text and pictures, the team responsible for What Do You Do With an Idea (2014) returns with another book inspiring children to feel good about themselves. A child frets about a problem that won’t go away: “I wished it would just disappear. I tried everything I could to hide from it. I even found ways to disguise myself. But it still found me.” The spare, direct narrative is accompanied by soft gray illustrations in pencil and watercolor. The sepia-toned figure of the child is set apart from the background and surrounded by lots of white space, visually isolating the problem, which is depicted as a purple storm cloud looming overhead. Color is added bit by bit as the storm cloud grows and its color becomes more saturated. With a backpack and umbrella, the child tries to escape the problem while the storm swirls, awash with compass points scattered across the pages. The pages brighten into splashes of yellow as the child decides to tackle the problem head-on and finds that it holds promise for unlooked-for opportunity.

A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught situations, this belongs on the shelf alongside Molly Bang’s Sophie books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943-20000-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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


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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