This book’s few strengths are sadly underutilized.


Handa spends the night at her friend Akeyo’s house and hears sounds throughout the night.

Handa and Akeyo, children of the Luo people of Kenya, are excited to sleep in the hut (evidently an outbuilding—it is unclear what kind of structure the main house is). Once inside, they lay out their mats, have a snack, and play games. Meanwhile, all sorts of sounds reach them from outside the hut. When Handa hears snorting, Akeyo says it’s just her father laughing, but readers see a view of a pig outside. When Handa hears chattering, Akeyo says the grown-ups are talking, but the illustration shows a group of bat-eared foxes outside. The noises and explanations continue, with each image of the children inside facing a view of an animal outside, as the two get ready for bed and lie down to sleep. In the morning, when Akeyo accuses her family of being noisy and they say they were quiet as mice, the two friends look out at readers as they ask, “So who was making the noise?” Handa and Akeyo are sympathetic protagonists, and the vividly illustrated creatures of the night will intrigue child readers. The persistent comparison of Akeyo’s family members to animals, however, is both ludicrous—these children have presumably heard these sounds all their lives and must know what they are—and somewhat unsettling, particularly from the perspective of a European author/illustrator. The page turns and layouts are disappointingly predictable and fail to create a suspenseful, dramatic story rhythm.

This book’s few strengths are sadly underutilized. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1489-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2020

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A terrific choice for the preschool crowd.

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Little Blue Truck learns that he can be as important as the big yellow school bus.

Little Blue Truck is driving along the country road early one morning when he and driver friend Toad come across a big, yellow, shiny school bus. The school bus is friendly, and so are her animal passengers, but when Little Blue Truck wishes aloud he could do an important job like hers, the school bus says only a bus of her size and features can do this job. Little Blue Truck continues along, a bit envious, and finds Piggy crying by the side of the road, having missed the bus. Little Blue tells Piggy to climb in and takes a creative path to the school—one the bus couldn’t navigate—and with an adventurous spirit, gets Piggy there right on time. The simple, rhyming text opens the story with a sweet, fresh, old-fashioned tone and continues with effortlessly rhythmical lines throughout. Little Blue is a brave, helpful, and hopeful character young readers will root for. Adults will feel a rush of nostalgia and delight in sharing this story with children as the animated vehicles and animals in innocent, colorful countryside scenes evoke wholesome character traits and values of growth, grit, and self-acceptance. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A terrific choice for the preschool crowd. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-41224-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way.


From the Pigeon series

All the typical worries and excuses kids have about school are filtered through Willems’ hysterical, bus-loving Pigeon.

Told mostly in speech balloons, the bird’s monologue will have kids (and their caregivers) in stitches at Pigeon’s excuses. From already knowing everything (except whatever question readers choose to provide in response to “Go ahead—ask me a question. / Any question!”) to fearing learning too much (“My head might pop off”), Pigeon’s imagination has run wild. Readers familiar with Pigeon will recognize the muted, matte backgrounds that show off the bird’s shenanigans so well. As in previous outings, Willems varies the size of the pigeon on the page to help communicate emotion, the bird teeny small on the double-page spread that illustrates the confession that “I’m… / scared.” And Pigeon’s eight-box rant about all the perils of school (“The unknown stresses me out, dude”) is marvelously followed by the realization (complete with lightbulb thought bubble) that school is the place for students to practice, with experts, all those skills they don’t yet have. But it is the ending that is so Willems, so Pigeon, and so perfect. Pigeon’s last question is “Well, HOW am I supposed to get there, anyway!?!” Readers will readily guess both the answer and Pigeon’s reaction.

Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04645-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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