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Four cohabiting friends take a journey to escape 100 days of rain.

The gentle creatures dress, act, and talk like kind, friendly people—and sport antlers and vaguely mouselike silhouettes. Their light-brown, white-freckled faces blend harmoniously with the muted, dreamlike landscapes. The plot is episodic; after the smallest friend, Minnie, has “the most fabulous idea in her whole life,” the friends go through a variety of adventures as they pursue a sunny picnic on top of the Blue Mountain. They initially ride horses that resemble unicorns, after which they use tools to turn a shipwrecked pirate ship into a veritable ark, collecting animals as they go. The story is long and tedious, crowded with hyperbolic words, exclamation points, and breathlessly patronizing expressions such as “Oh my” and “Oh yes.” The whimsical illustrations cannot save the verbose text. Reading the story is further complicated by the 19 interspersed sets of song lyrics from the accompanying CD. The CD includes a male voice reading the story along with mostly original ditties incorporating various styles of world music, including instruments plus several different, pleasant voices, into short, often hypnotic, songs. Single song tracks can be useful for encouraging movement or naptime with little ones; playing the text-plus-songs or reading the book aloud is unlikely to keep a child engrossed. Ironically, some of the best writing is in the lyrics.

Disappointing. (Picture book/music. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-2-925108-69-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: The Secret Mountain

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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The snappy text will get toes tapping, but the information it carries is limited.

Dancing is one of the most universal elements of cultures the world over.

In onomatopoeic, rhyming text, Bolling encourages readers to dance in styles including folk dance, classical ballet, breakdancing, and line dancing. Read aloud, the zippy text will engage young children: “Tappity Tap / Fingers Snap,” reads the rhyme on the double-page spread for flamenco; “Jiggity-Jig / Zig-zag-zig” describes Irish step dancing. The ballet pages stereotypically include only children in dresses or tutus, but one of these dancers wears hijab. Overall, children included are racially diverse and vary in gender presentation. Diaz’s illustrations show her background in animated films; her active child dancers generally have the large-eyed sameness of cartoon characters. The endpapers, with shoes and musical instruments, could become a matching game with pages in the book. The dances depicted are described at the end, including kathak from India and kuku from Guinea, West Africa. Unfortunately, these explanations are quite rudimentary. Kathak dancers use their facial expressions extensively in addition to the “movements of their hands and their jingling feet,” as described in the book. Although today kuku is danced at all types of celebrations in several countries, it was once done after fishing, an activity acknowledged in the illustrations but not mentioned in the explanatory text.

The snappy text will get toes tapping, but the information it carries is limited. (Informational picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63592-142-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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