A bare-bones, even emaciated retelling of and embellishment on “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

Frankie, a very tiny, brown spider, is small even compared to blades of grass and ladybugs. One day, he encounters a mysterious cave from which emanates a dripping sound. He investigates what turns out to be the spout of a rain gutter. But rather than just being washed out and climbing back again, Frankie gets to do some surfing on a leaf on the way down. No longer afraid, and equipped with beach shorts, he heads back up. The story is simple, with sparse text and pleasant-enough watercolor illustrations. But except for a few sound effects, a blasting surf riff and animations so minimal readers may not even notice they’re happening, this app offers little interaction. There’s no real navigation, just a cumbersome pop-up menu that requires tapping the screen twice to call it up. (Readers won’t even know it exists unless they happen to tap the screen twice.) All of these issues would be fine if the tale itself were truly transporting or charming, but instead, the lackluster animation, unremarkable writing and jarring music might make readers wish they were reading a better version of the original “Itsy.”

There’s nothing wrong with simplicity, but Frankie’s story and the app built around it are so spare they can’t possibly wash anyone out. (iPad storybook app. 2-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2013


Page Count: -

Publisher: Carey Federspiel

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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Fans of this popular series will find this a rewarding addition to family Easter celebrations.


From the God Gave Us You series

Bergren and Bryant attempt to explain Easter to young children in a gentle, nonthreatening manner, with partial success.

When Little Cub questions her father about Easter, Papa Bear explains the religious significance of the holiday in various symbolic ways to his cub. He uses familiar things from their world, such as an egg and a fallen tree, to draw parallels with aspects of the Christian story. Papa Bear discusses his close relationships with Jesus and God, encouraging Little Cub to communicate with God on her own. The theme focuses on the renewal of life and the positive aspects of loving God and Jesus. Easter is presented as a celebration of eternal life, but the story skirts the issue of the crucifixion entirely. Some adults will find this an inadequate or even dishonest approach to the Easter story, but others will appreciate the calm and soothing text as a way to begin to understand a difficult subject. Bryant’s charming watercolor illustrations of the polar bear family, their cozy home and snowy forest scenes add to the overall mellow effect.

Fans of this popular series will find this a rewarding addition to family Easter celebrations. (Religion/picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-73072-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: WaterBrook

Review Posted Online: Dec. 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2013

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A wandering effort, happy but pointless.


From the Dragons Love Tacos series

The perfect book for kids who love dragons and mild tacos.

Rubin’s story starts with an incantatory edge: “Hey, kid! Did you know that dragons love tacos? They love beef tacos and chicken tacos. They love really big gigantic tacos and tiny little baby tacos as well.” The playing field is set: dragons, tacos. As a pairing, they are fairly silly, and when the kicker comes in—that dragons hate spicy salsa, which ignites their inner fireworks—the silliness is sillier still. Second nature, after all, is for dragons to blow flames out their noses. So when the kid throws a taco party for the dragons, it seems a weak device that the clearly labeled “totally mild” salsa comes with spicy jalapenos in the fine print, prompting the dragons to burn down the house, resulting in a barn-raising at which more tacos are served. Harmless, but if there is a parable hidden in the dragon-taco tale, it is hidden in the unlit deep, and as a measure of lunacy, bridled or unbridled, it doesn’t make the leap into the outer reaches of imagination. Salmieri’s artwork is fitting, with a crabbed, ethereal line work reminiscent of Peter Sís, but the story does not offer it enough range.

A wandering effort, happy but pointless. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3680-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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