A clever picture book with an unexpected punch line that will delight young readers.

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THE LITTLE MOUSE SANTI

A mouse who wants to be a cat has a conversation that leads to an unexpected outcome in this delightful picture book by debut author Ray, featuring illustrations by Germano (The German King, 2013).

Young mouse Santi is envious of the farm cats who drink cream, take naps and receive pets from the farmer’s wife. He eagerly wants to take part in these cat activities and be included in the feline community. To that end, he practices doing what cats do: swishing his tail, bathing himself, meowing and ignoring everyone; the last turns out to be a convenient skill when his friends mock him for his behavior. Eventually, he gathers his courage and approaches a real-life cat, hoping to get an introduction to the rest of the farm felines. What happens next will surprise young readers and adults alike in a turn of events that supports the book’s theme that a mouse, cat or kid can become whatever he or she truly wants to be. Ray’s text is spare and approachable, with repetitious phrases (“He would practice strutting across the floor, swishing his tail”; “He would practice taking cat baths”; “He would practice his meows all day and night”) that will be accessible to beginning, independent readers. Santi has an admirable devotion to his dream and a realistic fear that he won’t be accepted by the felines that he admires most. The clever text is elevated to a true delight by Germano’s wonderful, cartoonish images, which look like they wouldn’t be out of place in a Studio Ghibli animated film. Many of the illustrations are spread out across two pages: For example, the opening tableau shows Santi approaching a yarn ball, and his shadow on the wall is that of a cat’s, which sets a perfect tone for the story to come. Germano also deeply captures Santi’s expressions—happiness, longing and fear—in a style that’s full of kid appeal.

A clever picture book with an unexpected punch line that will delight young readers.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0692252253

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Bienville Ray LLC

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2015

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An A+ for Little E and his creator.

LITTLE EXCAVATOR

A petite excavator named Little E finds his place among a crew of full-sized, heavy-construction equipment working together to build a park.

The anthropomorphic Little E, with bright, friendly eyes and a cheery smile, invites readers into the story on the large-format cover. He is followed by a brown-and-white–spotted dog, which appears throughout the story as a friend to Little E. The construction vehicles arrive at an abandoned lot and begin working together to transform the property into a park. The rollicking, rhyming text names each type of rig and its function, including lots of sound effects and action verbs set in display type integrated into the illustrations: “Pusha-pusha smusha-smusha SMASH SMASH SMASH!” Little E tries to help with each step, but he is either too small or not strong enough for the task at hand. The last step of the park-construction project is the planting of a tree on an island reached by a bridge, but all the big rigs are too large to safely cross the wooden bridge. In a pitch-perfect conclusion, Little E is just the right size for the job. Dewdney, the late author/illustrator of the Llama Llama series, has constructed a solid winner for one of her final books, with an appealing main character, vibrant illustrations with varying perspectives, and an action-packed, rhyming text with sound effects just begging to be read aloud with dramatic effect.

An A+ for Little E and his creator. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-99920-2

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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A joyful celebration.

FAMILIES BELONG

Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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