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Adequate but unexceptional.

Yet another retelling of the classic fairy tale, updated for inclusivity and suitable for the board-book set, if somewhat lacking in whimsy and magic.

The familiar fable of the three little pigs is retold in simple language. This go-round, one of the piglets is a she, offering girls a chance to place themselves in the narrative. For the record, she’s the one who builds her house of sticks, so she’s slightly less lazy than pig No. 1 but less practical and ambitious than pig No. 3. The only visual suggestions of her gender are the frilled top of her overalls and eyelashes, a feature the other two lack even though they are both mammals as well. The storytelling is bare-bones; youngsters won’t be overwhelmed by the amount of detail, but exposition is quite skimpy even so. As the story opens, for example, the pigs bid their “mommy pig” and “daddy pig” farewell: “The time had come for the three little pigs to leave home.” The statement begs to be followed with, “... to make their homes and seek their fortunes,” but caregivers will have to fill that in on their own. Although geared to the audience, the lack of detail diminishes the fairy-tale quality of the story. Even a “Once upon a time” would help immeasurably. The artwork is well-executed but static, only really popping when the Big, Bad Wolf huffs and puffs. The simultaneously publishing Pinocchio is even more drastically stripped-down.

Adequate but unexceptional. (Board book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4654-7848-1

Page Count: 30

Publisher: DK Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes.

A lift-the-flap book gives the littlest trick-or-treaters some practice identifying partygoers under their costumes.

Little Blue Truck and his buddy Toad are off to a party, and they invite readers (and a black cat) along for the ride: “ ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ / says Little Blue. / ‘It’s Halloween!’ / You come, too.” As they drive, they are surprised (and joined) by many of their friends in costume. “Who’s that in a tutu / striking a pose / up on the tiniest / tips of her toes? / Under the mask / who do you see?” Lifting the flap unmasks a friend: “ ‘Quack!’ says the duck. / ‘It’s me! It’s me!’ ” The sheep is disguised as a clown, the cow’s a queen, the pig’s a witch, the hen and her chick are pirates, and the horse is a dragon. Not to be left out, Little Blue has a costume, too. The flaps are large and sturdy, and enough of the animals’ characteristic features are visible under and around the costumes that little ones will be able to make successful guesses even on the first reading. Lovely curvy shapes and autumn colors fade to dusky blues as night falls, and children are sure to notice the traditional elements of a Halloween party: apple bobbing, lit jack-o’-lanterns, and punch and treats.

Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-77253-3

Page Count: 16

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable.

You think you know shapes? Animals? Blend them together, and you might see them both a little differently!

What a mischievous twist on a concept book! With wordplay and a few groan-inducing puns, Neal creates connections among animals and shapes that are both unexpected and so seemingly obvious that readers might wonder why they didn’t see them all along. Of course, a “lazy turtle” meeting an oval would create the side-splitting combo of a “SLOW-VAL.” A dramatic page turn transforms a deeply saturated, clean-lined green oval by superimposing a head and turtle shell atop, with watery blue ripples completing the illusion. Minimal backgrounds and sketchy, impressionistic detailing keep the focus right on the zany animals. Beginning with simple shapes, the geometric forms become more complicated as the book advances, taking readers from a “soaring bird” that meets a triangle to become a “FLY-ANGLE” to a “sleepy lion” nonagon “YAWN-AGON.” Its companion text, Animal Colors, delves into color theory, this time creating entirely hybrid animals, such as the “GREEN WHION” with maned head and whale’s tail made from a “blue whale and a yellow lion.” It’s a compelling way to visualize color mixing, and like Animal Shapes, it’s got verve. Who doesn’t want to shout out that a yellow kangaroo/green moose blend is a “CHARTREUSE KANGAMOOSE”?

Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0534-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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