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Happy nonsense that feels very British despite its Italian origins

The irrepressible Blake supplies illustrations for Yeoman’s English translation of the late Luzzati’s rhyming verses, “Filastrocca di Natale.”

The refrain is infectiously nonsensical: “With a bop and a bip and a bip and a bop/ A wardrobe with three little owls on the top. / And each of the three has decided to lay / A shiny white egg as it’s Christmas today.” The three loosely drawn pen-and-ink owls are differentiated by different wash colors, slightly different body types and appealing tufts on the bluish owl. They are a friendly trio, staring out from the page with large, round white eyes and clutching their individual eggs with sturdy, fingerlike feathers. Underneath is the hint of a wooden wardrobe. Blake’s trademark artwork continues to delight, as he shows the owls in their odd party garb; one is “wearing a gigantic vase for a hat.” Before setting off on a year’s journey that takes them around the world, the owls pull from a barrel a most unusual and learned fish, depicted in a whimsical double-page spread. While the “bops” and “bips” of the rhyme keep the youngest viewers happy, older children will enjoy such absurdities as the fish fretting about getting wet. The owls’ return to England coincides with Christmas, giving the book some holiday appeal as well.

Happy nonsense that feels very British despite its Italian origins . (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-84976-080-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tate/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2014

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Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes.

A lift-the-flap book gives the littlest trick-or-treaters some practice identifying partygoers under their costumes.

Little Blue Truck and his buddy Toad are off to a party, and they invite readers (and a black cat) along for the ride: “ ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ / says Little Blue. / ‘It’s Halloween!’ / You come, too.” As they drive, they are surprised (and joined) by many of their friends in costume. “Who’s that in a tutu / striking a pose / up on the tiniest / tips of her toes? / Under the mask / who do you see?” Lifting the flap unmasks a friend: “ ‘Quack!’ says the duck. / ‘It’s me! It’s me!’ ” The sheep is disguised as a clown, the cow’s a queen, the pig’s a witch, the hen and her chick are pirates, and the horse is a dragon. Not to be left out, Little Blue has a costume, too. The flaps are large and sturdy, and enough of the animals’ characteristic features are visible under and around the costumes that little ones will be able to make successful guesses even on the first reading. Lovely curvy shapes and autumn colors fade to dusky blues as night falls, and children are sure to notice the traditional elements of a Halloween party: apple bobbing, lit jack-o’-lanterns, and punch and treats.

Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-77253-3

Page Count: 16

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable.

You think you know shapes? Animals? Blend them together, and you might see them both a little differently!

What a mischievous twist on a concept book! With wordplay and a few groan-inducing puns, Neal creates connections among animals and shapes that are both unexpected and so seemingly obvious that readers might wonder why they didn’t see them all along. Of course, a “lazy turtle” meeting an oval would create the side-splitting combo of a “SLOW-VAL.” A dramatic page turn transforms a deeply saturated, clean-lined green oval by superimposing a head and turtle shell atop, with watery blue ripples completing the illusion. Minimal backgrounds and sketchy, impressionistic detailing keep the focus right on the zany animals. Beginning with simple shapes, the geometric forms become more complicated as the book advances, taking readers from a “soaring bird” that meets a triangle to become a “FLY-ANGLE” to a “sleepy lion” nonagon “YAWN-AGON.” Its companion text, Animal Colors, delves into color theory, this time creating entirely hybrid animals, such as the “GREEN WHION” with maned head and whale’s tail made from a “blue whale and a yellow lion.” It’s a compelling way to visualize color mixing, and like Animal Shapes, it’s got verve. Who doesn’t want to shout out that a yellow kangaroo/green moose blend is a “CHARTREUSE KANGAMOOSE”?

Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0534-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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