Grumpy animals are sometimes better left alone.

ALWAYS SO GRUMPY

A surly, big-eyed hedgehog is having a bad day, and it’s up to readers to cheer them up.

The prickly hedgehog opens with the warning: “I am grumpy. I am crabby. I am not having a good day.” The hedgehog then suggests that readers tell a joke or make a silly noise, which elicits a smirk from the hedgehog but doesn’t work to chase away the sour mood. Each double-page spread includes a new demand that is generally unrelated to the previous one and, predictably, can’t improve their temper. Switching back and forth between actions that readers take independently of the book, like making a funny noise, or things readers should perform on the book, like shaking it, lends an inconsistent and awkward feel to the progression of the story. The interactive elements lack the engagement and cohesion of Hervé Tullet’s Press Here (2011) and other books in this style, reading like half-hearted suggestions from a character with no clear motivation other than being grouchy. The hedgehog finally requests a hug and an “I love you,” which seems to turn the bad mood around. The hedgehog exclaims, “Thanks for sticking with me, even when I wasn’t very much fun to be around.” This reminds readers that we all have bad days, but it might not be enough to make this book a pleasant experience.

Grumpy animals are sometimes better left alone. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-1620-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life.

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BE YOU!

An inspirational picture book offers life advice for readers who want to be themselves.

Replete with sparkling, often quirky illustrations of children living their best lives, this book is a gorgeous guidebook for those seeking encouragement while encountering life’s challenges. The children featured—a racially diverse group ranging from infants to preschoolers—cheerfully navigate the various injunctions that flow through the text: “Be curious.…Be adventurous.…Be persistent.…Be kind.” What is remarkable about the book is that even though the instructions and the brief sentences explaining them are at times vague, the illustrations expand on them in ways readers will find endearing and uplifting. Those depicting painful or challenging moments are especially effective. The “Be persistent” double-page spread shows a child in a boat on stormy seas; it’s rich with deep blues as it emphasizes the energy of wind and rain and struggle in the face of challenge. Together with the accompanying repeated phrase “Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop,” this spread arrests readers. By contrast, the “Be kind. Be understanding” spread simply presents two children’s faces, one cast in blue and the other in gold, but the empathy that Reynolds conveys is similarly captivating. While there is no plot to pull readers through the pages, the book provides rich fodder for caregivers to use as teachable moments, both informally and in classroom settings.

Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-57231-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

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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