Tries to do too much and doesn’t quite succeed.


From the Tabbed Touch-and-Feel series

With the help of farm-animal friends, three little chicks bake their mother a cake and save it from ruin.

In this tactile board book, baby chickens Penny, Polly, and Molly are determined to show their love for Mama by baking her a cake. Other baby farm animals get in on the action, helping haul supplies and decorate the cake. When the enormous cake nearly topples, the chicks come up with a way to keep it intact, demonstrating to Mama both their love and their quick thinking. What’s unclear from the story is what makes these three chicks the titular “tough.” They’re certainly quick, innovative, and persistent, but beyond the cutesy play on words, it doesn’t mean much. The book includes various touch-and-feel elements: a fluffy foal’s tail and a fun-to-touch sticky spot of cake frosting. There are, however, unnecessary tabs on the right-hand side of the book. A little mouse appears before each page turn with reader-participation questions. “Can you moooo like a calf?” it asks. These mostly work, but they’re not needed. Suber’s illustrations are sweet, the animals cartoonish. They help explain and move the story along, particularly showing how the cake is saved at the end. Mostly there is just too much: tabs, flaps, participatory directions, touch-and-feel elements. Less would have been more.

Tries to do too much and doesn’t quite succeed. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-358-12653-9

Page Count: 12

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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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. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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An upbeat early book on feelings with a simple storyline that little ones will respond to.


This simplified version of Diesen and Hanna’s The Pout-Pout Fish (2008) is appropriate for babies and toddlers.

Brief, rhyming text tells the story of a sullen fish cheered up with a kiss. A little pink sea creature pokes his head out of a hole in the sea bottom to give the gloomy fish some advice: “Smile, Mr. Fish! / You look so down // With your glum-glum face / And your pout-pout frown.” He explains that there’s no reason to be worried, scared, sad or mad and concludes: “How about a smooch? / And a cheer-up wish? // Now you look happy: / What a smile, Mr. Fish!” Simple and sweet, this tale offers the lesson that sometimes, all that’s needed for a turnaround in mood is some cheer and encouragement to change our perspective. The clean, uncluttered illustrations are kept simple, except for the pout-pout fish’s features, which are delightfully expressive. Little ones will easily recognize and likely try to copy the sad, scared and angry looks that cross the fish’s face.

An upbeat early book on feelings with a simple storyline that little ones will respond to. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-37084-8

Page Count: 12

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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