What does it take to become a hero?

From a tilted airborne angle, the opening double-page spread shows brick houses and tiled roofs in faded reds and warm grays. Where’s Gideon, the “nice boy” in this “once upon a time”? He sits in his yard, tiny and barely noticeable, wearing a red cape that barely registers. Gideon’s life is unsatisfying, and although he soon appears larger—especially when dismembering and stabbing teddy bears—he’s unsure how to become a hero. Must he be strong, brave, and clever? Must he kiss someone? Imagining scenes from familiar fairy tales like “Cinderella,” Gideon concludes that he need only “be in the right place at the right time” and “pay attention.” So he does—except he totally doesn’t. Heroism possibilities appear left and right; Gideon’s oblivious. Then a briefly wordless supermarket scene unfolds with heroism-related twists and hilarity. Someone’s definitely a hero, but is it Gideon? Heide’s third-person-very-limited narration follows Gideon’s unmindful perspective while the illustrations show far more. Groenink uses pencil and Photoshop to create warm, low-saturation scenes with an old-fashioned lilt, using color judiciously in fantasy scenes, such as varying purples during a dragon-killing, or on Gideon’s nose, which is sometimes peach-skinned like the rest of his face but sometimes dark red, plum, or purple. Classical references (Propp & Bettelheim Quality Butchers) add a layered spark.

Heroism with a wink. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4521-2710-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


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

Did you like this book?