Simplistic wish fulfillment unlikely to move or comfort similarly marginalized kids.


Outsiders bond at Miss Blubber’s School for Arctic Mammals.

Not being seals like their teacher and the rest of their classmates, and bad at sports to boot, Neville the narwhal and Wilfred the walrus lead socially isolated lives (they don’t even like each other much)—until the arrival of new student Betty Beluga…who excels at everything but keeps to herself. Being, as Smouha puts it, “smitten,” Neville tries to impress Betty with a soccer-ball trick, but Wilfred torpedoes the effort. All three proceed to play hide-and-seek, and then, after Betty rejects a demand to pick one over the other (“I don’t need any rescuing and I don’t want a boyfriend thank you very much”), become “firm” friends who never again fret about fitting in. Ta-da! Bunnell illustrates this sketchy tale with chalky views of rotund sea creatures in chairs, on a soccer field, and like minimally detailed settings. The seals are all a uniform gray; Neville and Wilfred are, respectively, mustard and blue; Betty is a dazzling white…which gives the closing observation that “Wilfred and Neville and Betty were not like the other kids in Miss Blubber’s class” potentially uncomfortable overtones. Considering that the seals all look pretty much alike aside from the odd hat or scarf, it’s also more exclusionary than otherwise, which begs the final “And that was just fine.”

Simplistic wish fulfillment unlikely to move or comfort similarly marginalized kids. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-908714-62-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Cicada Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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A close encounter of the best kind.


Left behind when the space bus departs, a child discovers that the moon isn’t as lifeless as it looks.

While the rest of the space-suited class follows the teacher like ducklings, one laggard carrying crayons and a sketchbook sits down to draw our home planet floating overhead, falls asleep, and wakes to see the bus zooming off. The bright yellow bus, the gaggle of playful field-trippers, and even the dull gray boulders strewn over the equally dull gray lunar surface have a rounded solidity suggestive of Plasticine models in Hare’s wordless but cinematic scenes…as do the rubbery, one-eyed, dull gray creatures (think: those stress-busting dolls with ears that pop out when squeezed) that emerge from the regolith. The mutual shock lasts but a moment before the lunarians eagerly grab the proffered crayons to brighten the bland gray setting with silly designs. The creatures dive into the dust when the bus swoops back down but pop up to exchange goodbye waves with the errant child, who turns out to be an olive-skinned kid with a mop of brown hair last seen drawing one of their new friends with the one crayon—gray, of course—left in the box. Body language is expressive enough in this debut outing to make a verbal narrative superfluous.

A close encounter of the best kind. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4253-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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