Really well turned, with balance, momentum, and all the right notes.

The grumps are particularly vexing when you are a little penguin and you don’t even know where they came from.

In this accomplished debut picture book, Messer introduces readers to Penguin, who is standing in the rain in his sou’wester. But the rain is not the cause of his “very bad mood.” The problem? “He didn’t know why and he didn’t care. He stomped his feet all the way home.” He removes grumpy boots and coat. Still grumpy. He removes grumpy socks and overalls. “Nope. Still grumpy.” Off come the grumpy underpants. “I’m still grumpy, you know.” So he takes a deep breath and plunges into the tub. He plays with his duck and makes a bubble beard. He slips into his favorite PJs, downs a cup of hot chocolate, grabs a favorite book and a favorite teddy, and climbs into bed. Messer has arrived at a fine combination here: few words and images, but not too few, and well-chosen to pave the way out of the grumps. The artwork possesses substance and delicacy, using linoleum prints in a simple red, yellow, and blue palette displayed for maximum contrast against spacious white backgrounds. Unexpectedly—for kids that is—sleep looks good, and there is that comforting, invisible presence off the page, drawing the bath, making the hot chocolate, and washing the grumps out of those clothes.

Really well turned, with balance, momentum, and all the right notes. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8075-3075-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016


A stocking stuffer par excellence, just right for dishing up with milk and cookies.

Pigeon finds something better to drive than some old bus.

This time it’s Santa delivering the fateful titular words, and with a “Ho. Ho. Whoa!” the badgering begins: “C’mon! Where’s your holiday spirit? It would be a Christmas MIRACLE! Don’t you want to be part of a Christmas miracle…?” Pigeon is determined: “I can do Santa stuff!” Like wrapping gifts (though the accompanying illustration shows a rather untidy present), delivering them (the image of Pigeon attempting to get an oversize sack down a chimney will have little ones giggling), and eating plenty of cookies. Alas, as Willems’ legion of young fans will gleefully predict, not even Pigeon’s by-now well-honed persuasive powers (“I CAN BE JOLLY!”) will budge the sleigh’s large and stinky reindeer guardian. “BAH. Also humbug.” In the typically minimalist art, the frustrated feathered one sports a floppily expressive green and red elf hat for this seasonal addition to the series—but then discards it at the end for, uh oh, a pair of bunny ears. What could Pigeon have in mind now? “Egg delivery, anyone?”

A stocking stuffer par excellence, just right for dishing up with milk and cookies. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781454952770

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023


Sentimental but effective.

A book aimed at easing separation anxiety and reinforcing bonds.

Twins Liza and Jeremy awaken during a thunderstorm and go to their mother for comfort. She reassures them that they’re safe and says, “You know we’re always together, no matter what,” when they object to returning to bed. She then explains that when she was a child her mother told her about the titular “Invisible String,” encouraging them to envision it as a link between them no matter what. “People who love each other are always connected by a very special String made of love,” she tells them, reinforcing this idea as they proceed to imagine various scenarios, fantastic and otherwise, that might cause them to be separated in body. She also affirms that this string can “reach all the way to Uncle Brian in heaven” and that it doesn’t go away if she’s angry with them or when they have conflicts. As they go to bed, reassured, the children, who present white, imagine their friends and diverse people around the world connected with invisible strings, promoting a vision of global unity and empathy. While the writing often feels labored and needlessly repetitive, Lew-Vriethoff’s playful cartoon art enhances and lightens the message-driven text, which was originally published in 2000 with illustrations by Geoff Stevenson.

Sentimental but effective. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-48623-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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