Extremely skippable.

READ REVIEW

I DO NOT LIKE THAT NAME

A rabbit and a girl send away for a pachyderm friend.

Sophie, a white girl with blonde hair, and Herb, an extremely goofy rabbit, are eating breakfast one day when “Sophie noticed something on the cereal box.” A breakfast-foods company called Velveteen Valley claims that if a consumer redeems six box tops, they’ll send a free elephant. The friends get to work and mail the required materials, and soon a gigantic box with eyeholes shows up. During introductions, Sophie and Herb find out that it’s their responsibility to name their large gray friend. After a few false starts, readers learn that Herb is an old family name, and Sophie is named after a ballerina, so the elephant “remembered an elephant from long, long ago named Tony the Woolly,” so Tony it is. “The best part of having a name is making it your own,” remarks Sophie, and the trio rides off together on a bicycle built for three. With choppy page turns, unrelentingly upbeat dialogue, and an almost nonexistent conflict, this story is like the cereal the characters begin it eating: sweet, trying to appeal to both kids and the adults who have purchasing power, and extremely unsatisfying. The crude collage, ink, and gouache illustrations are fun but not enough to carry the bland plot and lukewarm message.

Extremely skippable. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-245577-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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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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Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations.

I BELIEVE I CAN

Diversity is the face of this picture book designed to inspire confidence in children.

Fans of Byers and Bobo’s I Am Enough (2018) will enjoy this book that comes with a universal message of self-acceptance. A line of children practices ballet at the barre; refreshingly, two of the four are visibly (and adorably) pudgy. Another group tends a couple of raised beds; one of them wears hijab. Two more children coax a trepidatious friend down a steep slide. Further images, of children pretending to be pirates, dragons, mimes, playing superhero and soccer, and cooking, are equally endearing, but unfortunately they don’t add enough heft to set the book apart from other empowerment books for children. Though the illustrations shine, the text remains pedagogic and bland. Clichés abound: “When I believe in myself, there’s simply nothing I can’t do”; “Sometimes I am right, and sometimes I am wrong. / But even when I make mistakes, I learn from them to make me strong.” The inclusion of children with varying abilities, religions, genders, body types, and racial presentations creates an inviting tone that makes the book palatable. It’s hard to argue with the titular sentiment, but this is not the only book of its ilk on the shelf.

Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266713-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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