A friendship story for the young and vicious.

FIRE TRUCK VS. DRAGON

The ultimate showdown gets waylaid by an inconvenient friendship.

What could be cooler than a fire truck going head-to-head with a dragon? From the title, fans of Barton’s Shark vs. Train (illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, 2010) will be prepped for some major fire-and-water action. The three child protagonists certainly anticipate a humdinger of a battle, but unfortunately, antipathy is not on the menu. Turns out, Fire Truck and Dragon are the best of buds. Worse, they won’t even take advantage of their natural gifts. A campout sees them making shadow puppets with flashlights. A barbecue is just a chance for them to show off their “free-range potato salad” and “firehouse beans.” And don’t even bother inviting them to your birthday party, unless you just want them spinning you around before you try for the piñata. When at last the two do face off, what occurs? A staring contest. But readers shouldn’t give up hope. They haven’t seen how they say good night. Barton deftly upsets expectations, both for those familiar with his previous book and newcomers who know what “versus” means. Laughs come equally from the disappointed children in the book as well as readers’ thwarted guesses as to what is going to happen. And McCloskey’s daffy cartoons make a perfect complement to Barton’s high-wired hilarity.

A friendship story for the young and vicious. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-52213-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Sadly, the storytelling runs aground.

LITTLE RED SLEIGH

A little red sleigh has big Christmas dreams.

Although the detailed, full-color art doesn’t anthropomorphize the protagonist (which readers will likely identify as a sled and not a sleigh), a close third-person text affords the object thoughts and feelings while assigning feminine pronouns. “She longed to become Santa’s big red sleigh,” reads an early line establishing the sleigh’s motivation to leave her Christmas-shop home for the North Pole. Other toys discourage her, but she perseveres despite creeping self-doubt. A train and truck help the sleigh along, and when she wishes she were big, fast, and powerful like them, they offer encouragement and counsel patience. When a storm descends after the sleigh strikes out on her own, an unnamed girl playing in the snow brings her to a group of children who all take turns riding the sleigh down a hill. When the girl brings her home, the sleigh is crestfallen she didn’t reach the North Pole. A convoluted happily-ever-after ending shows a note from Santa that thanks the sleigh for giving children joy and invites her to the North Pole next year. “At last she understood what she was meant to do. She would build her life up spreading joy, one child at a time.” Will she leave the girl’s house to be gifted to other children? Will she stay and somehow also reach ever more children? Readers will be left wondering. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 31.8% of actual size.)

Sadly, the storytelling runs aground. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72822-355-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride.

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THE PIGEON WILL RIDE THE ROLLER COASTER!

The Pigeon is on an emotional—and physical—roller coaster.

Since learning about the existence of roller coasters, he’s become giddy with excitement. The Pigeon prepares mentally: He’ll need a ticket and “exemplary patience” to wait in line. He envisions zooming up and down and careening through dizzying turns and loops. Then, he imagines his emotions afterward: exhilaration, post-ride blues, pride at having accomplished such a feat, and enthusiasm at the prospect of riding again. (He’ll also feel dizzy and nauseous.) All this before the Pigeon ever sets claw on an actual coaster. So…will he really try it? Are roller coasters fun? When the moment comes, everything seems to go according to plan: waiting in line, settling into the little car, THEN—off he goes! Though the ride itself isn’t quite what the Pigeon expected, it will delight readers. Wearing his feelings on his wing and speaking directly to the audience in first person, the Pigeon describes realistic thoughts and emotions about waiting and guessing about the unknown—common childhood experiences. No sentiment is misplaced; kids will relate to Pigeon’s eagerness and apprehension. The ending falls somewhat flat, but the whole humorous point is that an underwhelming adventure can still be thrilling enough to warrant repeating. Willems’ trademark droll illustrations will have readers giggling. The roller-coaster attendant is light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4549-4686-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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