Flashy but ultimately poorly conceived.



An inventively designed board book introduces the solar system to the youngest learners.

“Our solar system has eight planets,” begins the book, which presents stock photos of the sun and each planet in turn, with a fact or two about each. With the turn of the page, readers see the sun at the center of the double-page spread, the edge of the recto rounded at the leading edge of the sun’s surface. Each subsequent recto is similarly shaped, with an extra bulge where each planet’s photo is printed, and extends a little further out, creating an overlapping effect that evokes the planets’ orbits. It looks impressive, but in execution it falls short in clarity, since the facts associated with each body are printed on the other side of the page. Readers see that the “Sun is a giant ball of hot gas” opposite the photo of and label for Mercury. The planets’ photos are printed on both sides, but their relative sizes can cause confusion. “The rocks on the surface of Mars look red,” reads the text next to the diminutive picture of Mars, but the spread is dominated by Jupiter, also reddish, on the right. The facts presented vary in developmental appropriateness; will the board-book audience really understand such statements as “Gas giant planets do not have a solid surface”?

Flashy but ultimately poorly conceived. (Informational board book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4549-1418-1

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Instills a sense of well-being in youngsters while encouraging them to explore the natural world.


This reassuring picture book exemplifies how parents throughout the animal kingdom make homes for their offspring.

The narrative is written from the point of view of a parent talking to their child: “If you were a beaver, I would gnaw on trees with my teeth to build a cozy lodge for us to sleep in during the day.” Text appears in big, easy-to-read type, with the name of the creature in boldface. Additional facts about the animal appear in a smaller font, such as: “Beavers have transparent eyelids to help them see under water.” The gathering of land, air, and water animals includes a raven, a flying squirrel, and a sea lion. “Home” might be a nest, a den, or a burrow. One example, of a blue whale who has homes in the north and south (ocean is implied), will help children stretch the concept into feeling at home in the larger world. Illustrations of the habitats have an inviting luminosity. Mature and baby animals are realistically depicted, although facial features appear to have been somewhat softened, perhaps to appeal to young readers. The book ends with the comforting scene of a human parent and child silhouetted in the welcoming lights of the house they approach: “Wherever you may be, you will always have a home with me.”

Instills a sense of well-being in youngsters while encouraging them to explore the natural world. (Informational picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63217-224-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little Bigfoot/Sasquatch

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.


Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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It’s not the most original of plots and somewhat lacking in substance, but the message is clear: true friendship can...


It’s springtime in the woods, and all the animals are buzzing with excitement for the wedding of Red the fox.

While making decorations for the big event, two penguins help to solve problems that beset three of their friends. In the first short chapter, they encounter Olly the horse, who is distraught because all his friends have become unicorns and flown away. With speedy ingenuity, the penguins and other animals transform the forlorn horse into a magical beast, using branches for wings and a cone for a horn to help Olly become a unicorn and fly away. In the second chapter, Lionel the lion has lost his mane, and the friends construct an acceptable substitute out of flowers and branches. In the third minichapter, disaster befalls Red: the wedding cake she spent all week making has been stolen by Wolf. The friends pool their supply of woodland foods to make a new cake, “big enough to feed the whole wood.” Each minichapter ends with the phrase “Be happy now!” Rowe’s flat, limited-color silkscreen-style illustrations create an overly busy impression on the page, and the erratically placed text makes it sometimes difficult to follow the narrative.

It’s not the most original of plots and somewhat lacking in substance, but the message is clear: true friendship can overcome any obstacle. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-500-65105-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Thames & Hudson

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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