This sequel may not be wholly necessary, but little truck lovers will appreciate the light at the end of the tunnel.

TWO TOUGH TRUCKS GET LOST!

Nothing’s spookier than getting lost without your best friend by your side.

Once so different, the buddies of Two Tough Trucks (2019) are now as alike as peas in a pod. Mack and Rig spend their days, “racing and chasing and zipping ’round bends.” Warned by their folks to be back before dark, the two tear off into the saguaro-studded landscape, failing to notice with their headlight-eyes shut that when the road forks they take different paths. Upon discovering that they are not only lost, but separated, the two look high and low as the sun sets in the west. It’s Rig who thinks to light a flare and Mac who gets to the high ground, where he spots it. Reunited, they retrace their tracks, back to parents and home. This rhyming sequel, while peppy, downplays the trucks’ previously established personalities, rendering them nearly identical. It is nice to see them manage their mutual rescue, though the ending lands a bit flat. Blocky, cartoon art keeps things artful and peppy, rendering every little emotion a lost truck might feel in quick succession. Quick-eyed spotters will note the roadrunner and tortoise that secretly accompany our two heroes as they search for one another (even on the endpapers). (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.9-by-19-inch double-page spreads viewed at 18.5% of actual size.)

This sequel may not be wholly necessary, but little truck lovers will appreciate the light at the end of the tunnel. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-23655-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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THIS BOOK IS GRAY

A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history.

THE SCARECROW

Ferry and the Fans portray a popular seasonal character’s unlikely friendship.

Initially, the protagonist is shown in his solitary world: “Scarecrow stands alone and scares / the fox and deer, / the mice and crows. / It’s all he does. It’s all he knows.” His presence is effective; the animals stay outside the fenced-in fields, but the omniscient narrator laments the character’s lack of friends or places to go. Everything changes when a baby crow falls nearby. Breaking his pole so he can bend, the scarecrow picks it up, placing the creature in the bib of his overalls while singing a lullaby. Both abandon natural tendencies until the crow learns to fly—and thus departs. The aabb rhyme scheme flows reasonably well, propelling the narrative through fall, winter, and spring, when the mature crow returns with a mate to build a nest in the overalls bib that once was his home. The Fan brothers capture the emotional tenor of the seasons and the main character in their panoramic pencil, ballpoint, and digital compositions. Particularly poignant is the close-up of the scarecrow’s burlap face, his stitched mouth and leaf-rimmed head conveying such sadness after his companion goes. Some adults may wonder why the scarecrow seems to have only partial agency, but children will be tuned into the problem, gratified by the resolution.

A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247576-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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