A lovely but garbled fable

Pond life: an interrupted idyll.

“Once upon a time there was a pond, and in that pond lived a lot of frogs.” And they are a fine-looking army of frogs, decked out in French sailor shirts, singing songs, nabbing flies, snoozing, and attending to their coffee and paper on lily pads as delicate as etchings, all courtesy of Somà. Alas, one day a frog-sized crown falls into the water. One expert diver of a frog surfaces with the trophy and plops it on. A few other frogs get it into their heads that they will be her advisers and start bossing the other frogs around. Cali does not make it clear why this is so, since the frogs have seemingly always lived a democratic life and none of them “had ever seen a queen, and no one knew what to do or say. Finally, one of the frogs shouted, ‘Long live the queen!’ ” Despite the milieu, this doesn’t feel very organic. The queen takes on airs and entitlements; she is all-powerful and the best at everything. The other frogs even have to entertain her, such as the diving contest organized by the advisers. The common frogs urge the queen to dive, to show them how she is the best. She does, and predictably, the crown falls off and sinks into the mud. The metaphorical queen is dead; long live the common frog.

A lovely but garbled fable . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5481-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017



Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018


A stocking stuffer par excellence, just right for dishing up with milk and cookies.

Pigeon finds something better to drive than some old bus.

This time it’s Santa delivering the fateful titular words, and with a “Ho. Ho. Whoa!” the badgering begins: “C’mon! Where’s your holiday spirit? It would be a Christmas MIRACLE! Don’t you want to be part of a Christmas miracle…?” Pigeon is determined: “I can do Santa stuff!” Like wrapping gifts (though the accompanying illustration shows a rather untidy present), delivering them (the image of Pigeon attempting to get an oversize sack down a chimney will have little ones giggling), and eating plenty of cookies. Alas, as Willems’ legion of young fans will gleefully predict, not even Pigeon’s by-now well-honed persuasive powers (“I CAN BE JOLLY!”) will budge the sleigh’s large and stinky reindeer guardian. “BAH. Also humbug.” In the typically minimalist art, the frustrated feathered one sports a floppily expressive green and red elf hat for this seasonal addition to the series—but then discards it at the end for, uh oh, a pair of bunny ears. What could Pigeon have in mind now? “Egg delivery, anyone?”

A stocking stuffer par excellence, just right for dishing up with milk and cookies. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781454952770

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

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