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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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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Necessary nourishment, infectiously joyous.

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THE KING OF KINDERGARTEN

Newbery honoree Barnes (Crown, illustrated by Gordon C. James, 2017) shows a black boy what to expect on his first day as “king” of kindergarten.

A young boy greets the reader with a sweet smile. “The morning sun blares through your window like a million brass trumpets. / It sits and shines behind your head—like a crown.” The text continues in second person while the boy gets ready for his first day—brushing “Ye Royal Chiclets,” dressing himself, eating breakfast with his mother and father before riding “a big yellow carriage” to “a grand fortress.” The kind teacher and the other children at his table are as eager to meet him as he is to meet them. Important topics are covered in class (“shapes, the alphabet, and the never-ending mystery of numbers”), but playing at recess and sharing with new friends at lunch are highlights too, followed by rest time and music. The playful illustrations use texture and shadow to great effect, with vibrant colors and dynamic shapes and lines sustaining readers’ interest on every page. Text and visuals work together beautifully to generate excitement and confidence in children getting ready to enter kindergarten. The little king’s smiling brown face is refreshing and heartwarming. The other children and parents are a mix of races; the teacher and staff are mostly brown.

Necessary nourishment, infectiously joyous. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4074-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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