Whets the appetite for cake rather than reading.

EVERY CAKE HAS A STORY

A dream of pastries transforms a town.

In the monochromatic town of Samesville, everything is the same: “black and white and gray.” The only cake on offer is vanilla with chocolate frosting. Sammi, the White protagonist, puts her recipe card under her pillow, makes a wish that “things were NOT the same,” and has a dream filled with riotous color and magical confections—and just like that, the town is awash with bright hues and everyone has the ability to create thrilling baked goods. The title page helpfully adds that the author is “of Milk Bar” (but not so helpfully fails to explain that this is a restaurant chain offering inventive desserts). This perhaps explains why this story feels uncomfortably narrowed in on baked goods—not quite like an advertisement but also not quite a story. There are tremendous leaps of faith required: that a wholly undeveloped character would spontaneously break out of all-encompassing conformity and that putting a recipe card under a pillow could have such transformative effects. To be effective, this setting (reminiscent of the film Pleasantville) requires far more worldbuilding than it’s given, meaning that the emotional tenor is similarly muted. The Wizard of Oz–like transition from black-and-white to rainbow is visually striking but can’t make up for the lackluster storytelling. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Whets the appetite for cake rather than reading. (recipe) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-11068-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Wins for compassion and for the refusal to let physical limitations hold one back.

TINY T. REX AND THE IMPOSSIBLE HUG

With such short arms, how can Tiny T. Rex give a sad friend a hug?

Fleck goes for cute in the simple, minimally detailed illustrations, drawing the diminutive theropod with a chubby turquoise body and little nubs for limbs under a massive, squared-off head. Impelled by the sight of stegosaurian buddy Pointy looking glum, little Tiny sets out to attempt the seemingly impossible, a comforting hug. Having made the rounds seeking advice—the dino’s pea-green dad recommends math; purple, New Age aunt offers cucumber juice (“That is disgusting”); red mom tells him that it’s OK not to be able to hug (“You are tiny, but your heart is big!”), and blue and yellow older sibs suggest practice—Tiny takes up the last as the most immediately useful notion. Unfortunately, the “tree” the little reptile tries to hug turns out to be a pterodactyl’s leg. “Now I am falling,” Tiny notes in the consistently self-referential narrative. “I should not have let go.” Fortunately, Tiny lands on Pointy’s head, and the proclamation that though Rexes’ hugs may be tiny, “I will do my very best because you are my very best friend” proves just the mood-lightening ticket. “Thank you, Tiny. That was the biggest hug ever.” Young audiences always find the “clueless grown-ups” trope a knee-slapper, the overall tone never turns preachy, and Tiny’s instinctive kindness definitely puts him at (gentle) odds with the dinky dino star of Bob Shea’s Dinosaur Vs. series.

Wins for compassion and for the refusal to let physical limitations hold one back. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7033-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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