Sadly, this one’s difficult to compliment.

READ REVIEW

THE BRIGHTEST STAR

Compliments can help make the world glow a little brighter.

Anthropomorphic Fox and Dog sit together outside enjoying the night together. Fox wonders why some stars seem bigger than others, and Dog posits, “Maybe stars are growing….Just like you and I.” He goes on to speculate that saying nice things to stars could help them grow. “When I give you a compliment, your heart grows. It is the same with stars,” he explains. Fox and Dog decide to think nice thoughts about a star, and lo and behold, it grows bigger and brighter in the night sky, attracting other creatures to look at it. Although it’s not visible in some spreads, the growing star’s light illuminates scenes of the upward-gazing animals. Then: “Suddenly the star shoots through the night” and falls, making Fox and Dog worry that they weighed it down with all their compliments. But the warm glow is now within the woods, leading Dog to assert that their “nice thoughts fell to earth with the star.” Ultimately, the story can’t seem to decide whether or not it wants to function as a metaphor, which ends up undermining its message about the power of affirmations. The illustrations get bogged down with busy patterns in the background, and soft-focus settings feel mismatched with the cheerfully smiling cartoon characters.

Sadly, this one’s difficult to compliment. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60537-419-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clavis

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life.

Our Verdict

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BE YOU!

An inspirational picture book offers life advice for readers who want to be themselves.

Replete with sparkling, often quirky illustrations of children living their best lives, this book is a gorgeous guidebook for those seeking encouragement while encountering life’s challenges. The children featured—a racially diverse group ranging from infants to preschoolers—cheerfully navigate the various injunctions that flow through the text: “Be curious.…Be adventurous.…Be persistent.…Be kind.” What is remarkable about the book is that even though the instructions and the brief sentences explaining them are at times vague, the illustrations expand on them in ways readers will find endearing and uplifting. Those depicting painful or challenging moments are especially effective. The “Be persistent” double-page spread shows a child in a boat on stormy seas; it’s rich with deep blues as it emphasizes the energy of wind and rain and struggle in the face of challenge. Together with the accompanying repeated phrase “Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop,” this spread arrests readers. By contrast, the “Be kind. Be understanding” spread simply presents two children’s faces, one cast in blue and the other in gold, but the empathy that Reynolds conveys is similarly captivating. While there is no plot to pull readers through the pages, the book provides rich fodder for caregivers to use as teachable moments, both informally and in classroom settings.

Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-57231-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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