A worldwide whirlwind that misses the mark.



A stuffed animal and a stick travel around the world by mistake.

Huggie, a blue stuffed animal, and Stick, a wooden stick with a face, arms, and legs, fall out of their boy owner’s backpack into the ocean. They narrate in diary entries, taking turns. Stick’s an eternal optimist, cheerful and oblivious, calling pirates “nice guys in super awesome hats.” In contrast, Huggie’s grumpy, realistic, and perpetually annoyed. Spencer’s pen-and-ink–and-digital art is full of sharp lines and angles, emphasizing exaggerated perspectives and expressions. As the accidental adventurers hop from continent to continent, the places they visit fall into disturbing categories. Australia, Asia, and Africa feature wilderness and animals but neither humans nor industrialization, while Europe and North America feature humans, industrialization, and news media. South America (in text, not pictures) has people who use Stick “as a blowgun to shoot at monkeys and sloths all morning.” Such coding breathes new life into old, inexcusable messages about race and culture. Humor for the butt-jokes crowd and playfulness (“sharks are allergic to stuffed animals”) can’t outweigh the deplorable Western-centric attitudes and one massive geographical misstep: The protagonists fall off an African coast on the right-hand side of a spread into the Atlantic. This misleads readers who don’t know geography yet and confuses those who do. (An only-somewhat-clarifying map on the closing endpapers does not mitigate this fault.) Moreover, the suspension of disbelief demanded by the story is so staggeringly large that it’s distancing.

A worldwide whirlwind that misses the mark. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-17276-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...


Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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