Creative visuals and storytelling make for an absorbing read and a great bridge for both math and writing activities.

Will the pigs’ storytelling ever please the big bad wolf?

It’s a battle of wits. Back-and-forth dialogue between the pigs and the wolf makes clear that the wolf is a demanding editor. Most tales that the pigs tell are too short. Some veer off topic. Other stories lack specificity. The wolf wants a story with a “beginning and a middle and an end.” The pigs try. At the end of each story, the wolf almost always eats the pigs. The pigs are creative. They describe a soccer game. They write a story with 26 pigs (one for each letter of the alphabet) and one with 29 pigs (one for each day of the month—it’s February and a leap year). They even write math-based stories, but the wolf is still not satisfied. However, in a logical but still surprising ending, there is a clear victor. Readers who carefully watch the wolf’s face and posture will get hints. The illustrations, an inspired blend of illustration and photography, depict the pigs as beads grouped along an abacus. The pigs’ faces are expressive, with interesting details like a doctor’s coat and fun hats. The sometimes numbered or lettered pig beads shift from side to side and multiply as each spread’s story requires. The result is a clever take on metafiction that will appeal to both budding mathematicians and writers. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Creative visuals and storytelling make for an absorbing read and a great bridge for both math and writing activities. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6991-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2022


After a promising start, this autumnal offering ultimately disappoints.

Change is on the horizon for a trio of leaves at home in the branches of various trees in a park.

When the air grows chilly, Birch, Oak, and Maple all experience different emotions. Birch is optimistic and expectant, Oak is cautious and reluctant, and obstinate Maple feels left out as the other leaves change colors but she doesn’t. Illustrations rendered in acrylic gouache, colored pencil, and collage depict endearingly anthropomorphized leaves, with autumnal colors that pop. As the leaves learn more about fall from a pair of knowledgeable squirrels, Maple’s slow change to red is overshadowed by her impatience to join her friends. It’s only when she pulls herself free that she learns about the downside of fall—namely, the bottoms of boots, rain gutters, and rakes. Much like the shift from the bright crisp early days of autumn to the damp cold ones later in the season, it’s here that the story changes, going from a surprisingly nuanced examination of growth to something fluffy and less interesting. A young girl with straight black hair and tan skin finds the fallen leaves and takes them home, where she draws them as anthropomorphic characters, and all discussion of the importance of change is lost. Caregivers looking for a springboard to a discussion about growing up and the uncertainty of change may find this useful, but its sputtering ending detracts from its early momentum. Maybe next year will bring a more promising crop of leaves. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

After a promising start, this autumnal offering ultimately disappoints. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-358-41945-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Clarion/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022


Sweet—and savory.

When a girl visits her grandmother, a writer and “grand friend,” she is seeking something special to share at show and tell on the first day of school.

Before Brook can explain, Mimi expresses concern that certain words describing the natural world will disappear if someone doesn’t care for and use them. (An author’s note explains the author’s motivation: She had read of the removal of 100 words about outdoor phenomena from the Oxford Junior Dictionary.) The duo sets out to search for and experience the 19 words on Mimi’s list, from “acorn” and “buttercup” to “violet” and “willow.” Kloepper’s soft illustrations feature green and brown earth tones that frame the white, matte pages; bursts of red, purple, and other spot colors enliven the scenes. Both Mimi and Brook are depicted as white. The expedition is described in vivid language, organized as free verse in single sentences or short paragraphs. Key words are printed in color in a larger display type and capital letters. Sensory details allow the protagonist to hear, see, smell, taste, and hold the wild: “ ‘Quick! Make a wish!’ said Mimi, / holding out a DANDELION, / fairy dust sitting on a stem. / ‘Blow on it and the seeds will fly. / Your tiny wishes in the air.’ ” It’s a day of wonder, with a touch of danger and a solution to Brook’s quest. The last page forms an envelope for readers’ own vocabulary collections.

Sweet—and savory. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7073-2

Page Count: 62

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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