Joey would be more sympathetic if he didn’t sound like an ad. He’s about as believable as a parent who says, “My child would...

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JOEY AND THE GIANT BOX

Beware of books about good role models.

Kids hate it when their parents say, “I spend a fortune on a toy, and all the kids want to do is play with the box!” It sounds like an excuse to stop buying toys. But a box is still pretty terrific. In this book, Joey uses a carton as a spaceship and a fort. The problem is that the box takes up his entire room. When he tries to store it under the bed, it lifts the bedframe a yard into the air. (Byrne’s illustration is hilarious. Joey looks equally delighted and terrified.) Inspired by a food drive at the supermarket, he decides to turn the box into a gigantic donation bin and collect food for the needy. This is touching, but not every reader will find it convincing. Joey sounds a bit mature and formal for a small child: “Please don’t recycle my box yet….I want to collect food for hungry people—just like at the grocery store.” Lots of children’s books are propaganda (even—perhaps especially—Green Eggs and Ham), but the moral lesson in this book is more than a little heavy-handed.

Joey would be more sympathetic if he didn’t sound like an ad. He’s about as believable as a parent who says, “My child would rather have a box than a toy.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4677-1953-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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This Mother’s Day tale is rather limited in its audience to those who can afford fancy brunch after their own religious...

THE BERENSTAIN BEARS MOTHER'S DAY BLESSINGS

From the Berenstain Bears series

The Berenstains’ son adds a Mother’s Day entry to the series, continuing the adventures of the Bear family with a religious focus.

Brother, Sister, and Honey want to do something special for Mama for Mother’s Day, and Papa helps them think of just the thing—brunch at the Bear Country Inn after church—and they can invite Grizzly Gran, too. On the ride to church, Mama points out all the ways other families are celebrating their own mothers even though these community helpers are working on the holiday: Officer Marguerite’s children bring her flowers as she directs traffic, and Mrs. Ben’s children are pitching in with farm chores. Indeed, the trip to church is eye-opening for the cubs, who never realized that some of their neighbors even had children. During the church service, Preacher Brown thanks God for the gift of mothers and quotes the Bible: “Your mother was like a vine in your vineyard planted by the water; it was fruitful and full of branches.” While the illustrations are the same as ever (the smiling bears haven’t aged a bit!), the series seems to have moved away from addressing a variety of families.

This Mother’s Day tale is rather limited in its audience to those who can afford fancy brunch after their own religious services, contrary to its apparent message that being together is all that matters. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-310-74869-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Zonderkidz

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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The lofty symbolism of this allegorical tale may be above the comprehension level of literal-minded children.

GOOD GOOD FATHER

This Christian allegory presents a little bear who asks an all-powerful lion king for his help in solving the problems of other bear cubs.

Tucker is a cub who likes to help others, but his young friends have all sorts of deep-seated troubles, ranging from illness to hunger to aggression. So Tucker sets off on a journey to see the king, who lives in a hilltop castle “where the door was always open.” The bear cub wants to take along a “perfect gift” for the king to elicit his help, and in familiar fashion, he meets animals along the way who give him additional information about the king and items to take along as presents. Tucker takes all these items to the lion, who explains that as king he can fulfill these roles because he is a good father. The king returns to the town with Tucker, magically solving everyone’s problems with unexplained help and lots of love. Tucker concludes that the king is a “Good Good Father,” and Tucker’s seeking his help was the perfect gift. God is not mentioned in the text, and younger children will need an adult’s assistance in understanding the symbolic meaning of the lion and his multifaceted powers. Pleasant though unnuanced watercolor-and-pencil illustrations of appealing animal characters add some spunk to the story.

The lofty symbolism of this allegorical tale may be above the comprehension level of literal-minded children. (authors’ note) (Picture book/religion. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7180-8695-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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