Potentially helpful but far from terrific.


From the Terrific Toddlers series

The new Terrific Toddlers series explores toddlerhood’s trials and jubilations.

The book’s opening page juxtaposes an illustration of first-aid supplies with expository text that reads, “Sometimes we get boo-boos! Sometimes boo-boos hurt, and sometimes they are scary.” The next spread shifts to a narrative about a little girl named Jo-Jo who appears black, with light brown skin and hair done up in two twists. When she falls and hurts her chin, her father (who shares her coloring) comforts her, and then he uses the first-aid supplies from the first page to treat her small wound. While the text provides good modeling for adult readers to use to validate, calm, and distract kids with minor injuries such as this, the watercolor illustrations falter in their characterization of Daddy and his expressions. His vacant, distant stares on some spreads are anything but comforting. This artistic misstep is apparent in the companion titles, All Mine! (about helping toddlers share) and Bye-Bye! (about dealing with everyday separation anxiety). Both of these latter books feature multiracial casts of characters, and all three have a backmatter “Note to Parents and Caregivers” expanding on their respective focuses. Sadly, they also all include flawed depictions of adults whose facial expressions are difficult to read, which seems especially damning in books about adults helping children with emotional regulation.

Potentially helpful but far from terrific. (Picture book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4338-2875-1

Page Count: 16

Publisher: Magination/American Psychological Association

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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


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 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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