Appealing but sexist.

READ REVIEW

A YEAR AROUND THE GREAT OAK

During each season, city-dwelling siblings Benjamin and Anna visit their cousin Robin and his favorite tree—a 300-year-old oak in a European forest.

“Uncle John was a forester and their house was right on the edge of the forest.” This is typical of the blunt sentences that tell a gentle tale of children exploring the natural world whenever they are together. The illustrations—of gouache, colored pencil, and graphite—have the nostalgic appeal of mid-20th-century Little Golden Books, with people, plants, and animals rendered in a way that imbues them all with sweetness. A semblance of plot develops when Benjamin, despite misgivings, steals away at night for a tree visitation and must stay in its branches to avoid wild boars. The final story scene is a frameworthy double-page spread of children celebrating the oak in the full beauty of summer. The book is an expanded version of a title originally published in Germany in 1991. The sexism present in the text has not worn well. Aunt Beth is mentioned as Uncle John’s spouse but never appears—not even when the others spend a magical spring evening observing badgers and other forest creatures. Anna waters a plant and picks flowers, but she does not join Benjamin and Uncle John to watch a group of all-male foresters at work, nor to ski through the forest with Robin. The primary characters present white. Following the story is the new material: 12 pages of further information about woodlands, in lovingly illustrated detail.

Appealing but sexist. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78250-602-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Floris

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Between its autumn and field-trip themes and the fact that not many books start countdowns from 20, this may find its way to...

PUMPKIN COUNTDOWN

A class visits the pumpkin patch, giving readers a chance to count down from 20.

At the farm, Farmer Mixenmatch gives them the tour, which includes a petting zoo, an educational area, a corn maze and a tractor ride to the pumpkin patch. Holub’s text cleverly though not always successfully rhymes each child’s name within the line: “ ‘Eighteen kids get on our bus,’ says Russ. / ‘But someone’s late,’ says Kate. / ‘Wait for me!’ calls Kiri.” Pumpkins at the tops of pages contain the numerals that match the text, allowing readers to pair them with the orange-colored, spelled-out numbers. Some of the objects proffered to count are a bit of a stretch—“Guess sixteen things we’ll see,” count 14 cars that arrived at the farm before the bus—but Smith’s artwork keeps things easy to count, except for a challenging page that asks readers to search for 17 orange items (answers are at the bottom, upside down). Strangely, Holub includes one page with nothing to count—a sign marks “15 Pumpkin Street.” Charming, multicultural round-faced characters and lots of detail encourage readers to go back through the book scouring pages for the 16 things the kids guessed they might see. Endpapers featuring a smattering of pumpkin facts round out the text.

Between its autumn and field-trip themes and the fact that not many books start countdowns from 20, this may find its way to many library shelves. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8075-6660-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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THE SNOWY NAP

A hedgehog tries to stay awake for winter.

It’s almost time to hibernate, and Hedgie means to. But as he sniffs the chilly wind, farmyard animals taunt him about what he’ll miss. The hens’ coop will be “bedazzled by icicles”; the geese will joyfully “slip and slide across the pond ice”; the pony will pull a sleigh; snowflakes will fall, no two alike. The animals heckling Hedgie—hens, geese, sheep, pigs, a billy goat, a pony—are drawn with fine lines, hatchings, and textures. Because their faces are mostly realistic with only faint hints of anthropomorphism, their needling is subtle; some readers may hear their points as merely informative. Either way, Hedgie’s seized by FOMO: He decides to stay awake. When he accidentally nods off, farm girl Lisa brings him indoors and places him in a tea cozy on a windowsill. Nature will eventually run its course, but not before Hedgie finally glimpses “flowers of frost decorating his window,” the chicken coop “sparkl[ing] like a palace,” and Lisa pond-sliding with the geese. Brett’s watercolor-and-gouache illustrations feature both soft and bright colors, with fine lines and copious textures to peruse; the borders are characteristically fussy (braided yarn, pinking-shears edging, oval insets) but not distractingly so. Between the opulent farmhouse with decorative plates on the walls, the sleigh with sleigh bells, and the lack of adults, combined with a comfortably heated interior, this is a winter idyll. Lisa presents white.

Amiable. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-17073-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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