FRIEND

A charming reminder that friends don’t need to say a lot; warm hearts and expressions speak volumes.

You don’t need many words to express emotions.

This New Zealand import, featuring a young child and a brown, wide-eyed, blue-collared pooch pal, proves this. The meanings inherent in the minimal text are quite precise. How minimal? One page includes a sentence comprising three words; some pages contain from one to four words. Yet the spare language—some could characterize it as labeling on some pages—carries much weight, and the words are descriptive. This is clearly seen in the simple yet pithy, expressive illustration on each page. For example, note the close, deliberate association between the facial expressions of the dog and/or its tan-skinned, dark-haired guardian when the single words happy, sad, shy, or angry appear. And, for not-yet-reading or emergent readers, the concise language serves as a great vocabulary developer, too. Take the word rowdy, for instance—a term likely unfamiliar to the preschool crowd. To extend this book’s learning value, adults could guide listeners to suggest other terms to appropriately describe the artwork. Children would also enjoy making faces in a mirror and then talking about their expressions or creating original drawings and dictating one-word (or more) descriptors. Dog lovers and pet owners will especially relate to this small book about the warm, empathic relationship between a child and a beloved animal. Another background character is depicted with dark-brown skin. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A charming reminder that friends don’t need to say a lot; warm hearts and expressions speak volumes. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-77657-486-5

Page Count: 18

Publisher: Gecko Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S VALENTINE

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.

Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

FAMILIES BELONG

A joyful celebration.

Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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