Confusing motivation and lifeless illustrations sink this story about a little boy’s big “lies.”

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LITTLE LIAR

A little boy views his everyday life from a bigger-is-better perspective in this picture book for the early grade school set.

“My pancakes are SO yummy that the President of the United States comes to eat breakfast at MY house!” A little boy named Bobby seems to have a most unusual life in Umetsu’s picture book. From his pancakes worthy of a president and his penchant for discovering new species of dinosaurs to his mega-cache of toys (so many “that Santa comes to buy toys from ME!”) and his kudos for a brave dad who can send a T. rex running, Bobby lives large. Is Bobby really fantasizing? Or is this his real life? Only on the back cover does the author explain, and at some length, that Bobby is out of sorts because he must share his parents’ attention with his little brother. So, “instead of becoming a big blob of jealousy,” the author writes, Bobby changes the narrative and plans to “supersize everything” about his life. The concept is a good and possibly universal one for kids with siblings. But without the stage being set to begin with, children have no reason not to take Bobby’s narrative literally. Adults may glean that Bobby exaggerates about his little brother’s sleeping and eating habits and why Mom seems to be a focus for Bobby’s resentment, but kids probably won’t. The author may not have intended this negative treatment of poor Mom to be so jarring. (Her cooking is “yucky”; she does nothing all day but watch TV and “wait for Daddy to come home.”) Because the book’s context is clarified only in the author’s note, this “bad Mommy” element is unpleasant and stereotypical. The uncredited full-color illustrations, bland and awkwardly executed with text and cartoon-style dialogue balloons, are a missed opportunity.

Confusing motivation and lifeless illustrations sink this story about a little boy’s big “lies.”

Pub Date: April 22, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4808-2725-7

Page Count: 22

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2017

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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