Not the solidest piece in the looking-for-a-friend genre.

IMAGINARY FRED

An imaginary person has needs of his own.

Fred, whose humanlike shape is made of digital blue patterning with no outline, floats “like a feather in the wind until a lonely little child wish[es] for him.” If the conditions are “just right”—a lightning strike, or maybe fish falling from the sky—he pops down to Earth and becomes that child’s imaginary friend. It’s always short-lived: as soon as the child finds “a real friend in the real world,” Fred fades, whisked back to the sky until someone new needs him. Despite shabby treatment—the real-world kids poke him with swords, make him vacuum, toss him hoopward as if he’s a basketball, and undress him to laugh at his (not graphically depicted) nakedness—Fred longs for a friendship to be permanent. Humor arrives in Jeffers’ quirky line drawings (the art is largely black and white). Fred and a friend struggle “to understand how the toilet work[s]”; a musical quartet—two real musicians, two imaginary—baffles the audience: “Why are there only two of them?” Common to many imaginary-friend stories, the ontology may confuse: Fred may be invisible, but he has thoughts and desires, so is he really imaginary? Readers who sometimes or even often enjoy playing by themselves may not appreciate the text’s heavy-handed insistence that “being alone is no fun.”

Not the solidest piece in the looking-for-a-friend genre. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-237955-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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Sadly, the storytelling runs aground.

LITTLE RED SLEIGH

A little red sleigh has big Christmas dreams.

Although the detailed, full-color art doesn’t anthropomorphize the protagonist (which readers will likely identify as a sled and not a sleigh), a close third-person text affords the object thoughts and feelings while assigning feminine pronouns. “She longed to become Santa’s big red sleigh,” reads an early line establishing the sleigh’s motivation to leave her Christmas-shop home for the North Pole. Other toys discourage her, but she perseveres despite creeping self-doubt. A train and truck help the sleigh along, and when she wishes she were big, fast, and powerful like them, they offer encouragement and counsel patience. When a storm descends after the sleigh strikes out on her own, an unnamed girl playing in the snow brings her to a group of children who all take turns riding the sleigh down a hill. When the girl brings her home, the sleigh is crestfallen she didn’t reach the North Pole. A convoluted happily-ever-after ending shows a note from Santa that thanks the sleigh for giving children joy and invites her to the North Pole next year. “At last she understood what she was meant to do. She would build her life up spreading joy, one child at a time.” Will she leave the girl’s house to be gifted to other children? Will she stay and somehow also reach ever more children? Readers will be left wondering. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 31.8% of actual size.)

Sadly, the storytelling runs aground. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72822-355-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride.

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THE PIGEON WILL RIDE THE ROLLER COASTER!

The Pigeon is on an emotional—and physical—roller coaster.

Since learning about the existence of roller coasters, he’s become giddy with excitement. The Pigeon prepares mentally: He’ll need a ticket and “exemplary patience” to wait in line. He envisions zooming up and down and careening through dizzying turns and loops. Then, he imagines his emotions afterward: exhilaration, post-ride blues, pride at having accomplished such a feat, and enthusiasm at the prospect of riding again. (He’ll also feel dizzy and nauseous.) All this before the Pigeon ever sets claw on an actual coaster. So…will he really try it? Are roller coasters fun? When the moment comes, everything seems to go according to plan: waiting in line, settling into the little car, THEN—off he goes! Though the ride itself isn’t quite what the Pigeon expected, it will delight readers. Wearing his feelings on his wing and speaking directly to the audience in first person, the Pigeon describes realistic thoughts and emotions about waiting and guessing about the unknown—common childhood experiences. No sentiment is misplaced; kids will relate to Pigeon’s eagerness and apprehension. The ending falls somewhat flat, but the whole humorous point is that an underwhelming adventure can still be thrilling enough to warrant repeating. Willems’ trademark droll illustrations will have readers giggling. The roller-coaster attendant is light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4549-4686-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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