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THE LITTLE MOUSE SANTI

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

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2015

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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FAMILIES BELONG

A joyful celebration.

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. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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OTIS

From the Otis series

Continuing to find inspiration in the work of Virginia Lee Burton, Munro Leaf and other illustrators of the past, Long (The Little Engine That Could, 2005) offers an aw-shucks friendship tale that features a small but hardworking tractor (“putt puff puttedy chuff”) with a Little Toot–style face and a big-eared young descendant of Ferdinand the bull who gets stuck in deep, gooey mud. After the big new yellow tractor, crowds of overalls-clad locals and a red fire engine all fail to pull her out, the little tractor (who had been left behind the barn to rust after the arrival of the new tractor) comes putt-puff-puttedy-chuff-ing down the hill to entice his terrified bovine buddy successfully back to dry ground. Short on internal logic but long on creamy scenes of calf and tractor either gamboling energetically with a gaggle of McCloskey-like geese through neutral-toned fields or resting peacefully in the shade of a gnarled tree (apple, not cork), the episode will certainly draw nostalgic adults. Considering the author’s track record and influences, it may find a welcome from younger audiences too. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-399-25248-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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