A clever, humorous approach to the world of letters, words, and literacy.


When Dog spots the letters of the alphabet floating overhead and is not sure what they might be, Cat interrupts a bath to explain what the letters are for and how they are used.

With a certain sardonic wit, knowledgeable Cat demonstrates to the less-informed Dog how letters are rearranged to make words. Cat begins to poke the letters with a stick, and after they come crashing down, some on Dog’s head (“Ouch! You did that on purpose”), Dog begins to sweep them away. “These things are dangerous.” Cat quickly interrupts to show how they can begin to put the letters together. “Let’s try spelling our names.” This results in a cheeky, literal “our names,” which prompts Dog to attempt a version with “dat and cog.” Cat then creates a long affirmative statement: “letters can make words that are brilliant and awesome or dark and scary or sunny and happy or rainy and sad.” (The arrangement of these block letters on a double-page spread may require a moment or two to parse.) Dog complains, weeping and pounding the floor: “BUT IT’S ALL SO COMPLICATED!” Yet Cat, armed with a stack of books, asserts the best thing to be done with letters is to make lots of words. Black-and-white cartoon art against a very stark white backdrop extends this duo’s banter. Splashes of color add emphasis, such as Cat’s large stack of colorfully covered books.

A clever, humorous approach to the world of letters, words, and literacy. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1096-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Echoes of Runaway Bunny color this exchange between a bath-averse piglet and his patient mother. Using a strategy that would probably be a nonstarter in real life, the mother deflects her stubborn offspring’s string of bath-free occupational conceits with appeals to reason: “Pirates NEVER EVER take baths!” “Pirates don’t get seasick either. But you do.” “Yeesh. I’m an astronaut, okay?” “Well, it is hard to bathe in zero gravity. It’s hard to poop and pee in zero gravity too!” And so on, until Mom’s enticing promise of treasure in the deep sea persuades her little Treasure Hunter to take a dive. Chunky figures surrounded by lots of bright white space in Segal’s minimally detailed watercolors keep the visuals as simple as the plotline. The language isn’t quite as basic, though, and as it rendered entirely in dialogue—Mother Pig’s lines are italicized—adult readers will have to work hard at their vocal characterizations for it to make any sense. Moreover, younger audiences (any audiences, come to that) may wonder what the piggy’s watery closing “EUREKA!!!” is all about too. Not particularly persuasive, but this might coax a few young porkers to get their trotters into the tub. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25425-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2011

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A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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