Oddly sterile for a book that’s all about love.

READ REVIEW

ME AND MY BIG MOUSE

An end to the travails of being loved too much is negotiated like peace talks.

Michael and Bo are close friends. Michael is a young boy, and Bo is of the genus lab mouse—all white and pink—on steroids. Bo is hyperactive and a slob and a hog, but he also radiates the ineffable charm of the drunken uncle who puts a lampshade on his head. Like the drunken uncle, a little bit can go a long way, and though Michael loves Bo, he can’t catch a break from him either (even in the de rigueur bathroom moment). Fed up, Michael locks Bo in the house and goes off to play with his friends—all of whom wonder why Bo, their favorite mouse, isn’t in tow. Michaels misses the beast, too, though things have to change. So Michael returns home and draws up a contract stipulating certain behavioral constraints. Michael’s need for personal space is certainly understandable, but to make it a legal issue drains a critical measure of warmth from the relationship. Perhaps it is best to stand back a bit and read the book as a cautionary tale: Friends, like pets (except cats and ball pythons), don’t demand attention so much as they require it. Where the big mouse/big mouth comes into the picture is a mystery, unless it’s just there for the obvious joke. The color and texture of the artwork resembles a piece of cake one might find tucked deep in the freezer.

Oddly sterile for a book that’s all about love. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-1477847282

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2014

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Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug.

THE HUG

What to do when you’re a prickly animal hankering for a hug? Why, find another misfit animal also searching for an embrace!

Sweet but “tricky to hug” little Hedgehog is down in the dumps. Wandering the forest, Hedgehog begs different animals for hugs, but each rejects them. Readers will giggle at their panicked excuses—an evasive squirrel must suddenly count its three measly acorns; a magpie begins a drawn-out song—but will also be indignant on poor hedgehog’s behalf. Hedgehog has the appealingly pink-cheeked softness typical of Dunbar’s art, and the gentle watercolors are nonthreatening, though she also captures the animals’ genuine concern about being poked. A wise owl counsels the dejected hedgehog that while the prickles may frighten some, “there’s someone for everyone.” That’s when Hedgehog spots a similarly lonely tortoise, rejected due to its “very hard” shell but perfectly matched for a spiky new friend. They race toward each other until the glorious meeting, marked with swoony peach swirls and overjoyed grins. At this point, readers flip the book to hear the same gloomy tale from the tortoise’s perspective until it again culminates in that joyous hug, a book turn that’s made a pleasure with thick creamy paper and solid binding.

Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-571-34875-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Good bedtime reading.

POLAR BEAR ISLAND

Only polar bears are allowed on Polar Bear Island, until Kirby, a friendly, creative penguin, arrives on the scene.

On the verso of the first double-page spread, large white lettering proclaims against an azure sky: “Polar Bear Island was peaceful and predictable. Parker, the mayor, planned to keep it that way.” Below, Parker—paint can in left paw—can be seen facing his sign: “Welcome to Polar Bear Island. No Others Allowed.” On the recto, Kirby floats into view on an ice floe, with hat, scarf, and overstuffed suitcase. When Kirby arrives, Parker grudgingly allows her an overnight stay. However, she soon proves her worth to the other bears; she has invented Flipper Slippers, which keep extremities warm and reverse from skates to snowshoes. Now Kirby is allowed to stay and help the bears make their own Flipper Slippers. When her family shows up with more inventions, Parker feels compelled to give them a week. (Presumably, the penguins have made the 12,430-mile-trip from the South Pole to the North Pole, characterized merely as “a long journey.”) A minor crisis permanently changes Parker’s attitudes about exclusivity. The text is accessible and good fun to read aloud. The weakness of the ostensible theme of granting welcome to newcomers lies in the fact that all the newcomers are immediately, obviously useful to the bears. The cartoonlike, scratchboard-ish graphics are lighthearted and full of anthropomorphic touches.

Good bedtime reading. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2870-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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