Friendships do indeed come in all shapes and sizes.

BUTTERCUP THE BIGFOOT

A youngster with a penchant for howling finds the perfect companion.

Willa Cathcart Wilmerding is bold and clever. She climbs supertall trees, befriends arachnids, and can even spell the word “H-E-L-I-C-O-P-T-E-R.” But every Friday night, Willa climbs to the roof of her house and howls at the moon. It doesn’t have anything to do with werewolves—she just enjoys howling. (The howls tumble and stretch across the pages as she bellows.) When her mom admonishes her, Willa decides to run away to the mountains where she can howl in peace. However, the mountains are also where Bigfoot lives. And Bigfoot likes to howl just as much as Willa. (This particular version is shaggy, pink, and female.) After a bit of a standoff, the two become fast friends. Willa decides to name her new friend Buttercup. But when Willa’s mom comes on a helicopter and tells her she misses her, sadly the pair is separated. The convenient wrap-up involves the woolly creature’s arrival in the city, where she joins Willa’s life. Everything seems a bit off-kilter (why does Willa howl? Why is her skin tinted blue, with schoolmates having a variety of normal and outlandish tones?), but the romp skims along the surface to simply tell a quirky story of friendship. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 36.5% of actual size.)

Friendships do indeed come in all shapes and sizes. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-20934-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Too many bugs, figuratively.

LUCY'S LIGHT

Lucy, “the youngest member of a family of fireflies,” must overcome an irrational, moon-induced anxiety in order to leave her family tree trunk and glow.

The first six pages pull readers into a lush, beautiful world of nighttime: “When the sun has set, silence falls over the Big Forest, and all of the nighttime animals wake up.” Mixed media provide an enchanting forest background, with stylized flora and fauna eventually illuminated by a large, benign moon, because the night “doesn’t like to catch them by surprise.” Turning the page catches readers by surprise, though: the family of fireflies is decidedly comical and silly-looking. Similarly, the text moves from a lulling, magical cadence to a distinct shift in mood as the bugs ready themselves for their foray into the night: “They wave their bottoms in the air, wiggle their feelers, take a deep, deep breath, and sing, ‘Here we go, it’s time to glow!’ ” It’s an acceptable change, but more unevenness follows. Lucy’s excitement about finally joining the other bugs turns to “sobbing” two nights in a row. Instead of directly linking her behavior to understandable reactions of children to newness, the text undermines itself by making Lucy’s parents’ sweet reassurances impotent and using the grandmother’s scientific explanation of moonlight as an unnecessary metaphor. Further detracting from the story, the text becomes ever denser and more complex over the book’s short span.

Too many bugs, figuratively. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-84-16147-00-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Cuento de Luz

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history.

THE SCARECROW

Ferry and the Fans portray a popular seasonal character’s unlikely friendship.

Initially, the protagonist is shown in his solitary world: “Scarecrow stands alone and scares / the fox and deer, / the mice and crows. / It’s all he does. It’s all he knows.” His presence is effective; the animals stay outside the fenced-in fields, but the omniscient narrator laments the character’s lack of friends or places to go. Everything changes when a baby crow falls nearby. Breaking his pole so he can bend, the scarecrow picks it up, placing the creature in the bib of his overalls while singing a lullaby. Both abandon natural tendencies until the crow learns to fly—and thus departs. The aabb rhyme scheme flows reasonably well, propelling the narrative through fall, winter, and spring, when the mature crow returns with a mate to build a nest in the overalls bib that once was his home. The Fan brothers capture the emotional tenor of the seasons and the main character in their panoramic pencil, ballpoint, and digital compositions. Particularly poignant is the close-up of the scarecrow’s burlap face, his stitched mouth and leaf-rimmed head conveying such sadness after his companion goes. Some adults may wonder why the scarecrow seems to have only partial agency, but children will be tuned into the problem, gratified by the resolution.

A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247576-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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