Must you and your best friend be the same type of rodent?

This ode to friendship opens with the purest scansion and a hilarious setup (joyfully repeated later) that invites readers to chime in. “Lake Park only had one squirrel, / all alone and sad (poor Cyril). / Until the morning he met Pat, / his new best friend, a big gray…”—here’s the page turn, where readers will shout rat—”SQUIRREL! Just like me,” declares Cyril, arms wide open to Pat, who sports a wobbly smile and an extremely ratlike tail. The two romp all over their big-city park, startling pigeons, nabbing duck food, and fleeing a dog. Cyril interrupts all attempts to identify Pat as a rat. Only when humans—a black mom and child, each wearing a red sweater and red galoshes—let the rat out of the bag does Cyril see the truth. The other animals, annoyed, assert that “squirrels can’t be friends with rats,” and Pat (who’s never gendered) slinks off the page. “Cyril, now back on his own, / tried to play their games alone.” But he’s unhappy—and unsafe. In a dark, visually stunning sequence outside the park, Pat saves Cyril, and all is well. Scansion (after the opening) and rhyming are inconsistent, but Gravett’s great good humor and mischievous illustrations in pencil, watercolor, and acrylic ink are bang-on, as always—especially in the fact that besides tail and ear shapes, Cyril and Pat are almost identical.

Cheeky yet sincere. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3950-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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Safe to creep on by.


Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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