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FISH BY FISH

Subtly packaged anti-bullying and group empowerment for small fry.

How can little fish avoid being eaten by bigger fish?

The opening double-page spread shows a pretty underwater scene rendered using what appears to be watercolor resist technique. On the verso, a large, round fish stares at a tiny clown fish on the recto and comments “Oh, look! That’s a perfect little snack for me.” The big fish looks friendly and the little one’s face lacks affect, so adults reading the book aloud to children will have to decide how sinister of a tone to adopt. A graduated series of die-cut holes in the center of each double spread means that each page turn adds layer upon layer to the visual narrative. As the story progresses, increasingly larger, open-mouthed fish appear, poised to eat the one before across the gutter, while the tiny, still expressionless clown fish hovers between them. After the opening sentence, the text takes the form of a simple refrain with a new adjective substituted on each page: “Oh no…that’s a huge fish!” and “oh no…that’s a gigantic fish!” and so on. The penultimate spread, showing a band of small clown fish coming to the aid of their beleaguered buddy, imitates a visual metaphor frequently used on grassroots-organizing posters to express the idea of unity in strength. The concluding text appropriately reinforces the message. The colorful, alluring artwork somewhat undermines the narrative by endowing each large fish with beauty and personality—despite the menacing eyes—while the tiny clown fish shows no emotion until the final page. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Subtly packaged anti-bullying and group empowerment for small fry. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-6626-5055-0

Page Count: 16

Publisher: minedition

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2021

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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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SMILE, POUT-POUT FISH

An upbeat early book on feelings with a simple storyline that little ones will respond to.

This simplified version of Diesen and Hanna’s The Pout-Pout Fish (2008) is appropriate for babies and toddlers.

Brief, rhyming text tells the story of a sullen fish cheered up with a kiss. A little pink sea creature pokes his head out of a hole in the sea bottom to give the gloomy fish some advice: “Smile, Mr. Fish! / You look so down // With your glum-glum face / And your pout-pout frown.” He explains that there’s no reason to be worried, scared, sad or mad and concludes: “How about a smooch? / And a cheer-up wish? // Now you look happy: / What a smile, Mr. Fish!” Simple and sweet, this tale offers the lesson that sometimes, all that’s needed for a turnaround in mood is some cheer and encouragement to change our perspective. The clean, uncluttered illustrations are kept simple, except for the pout-pout fish’s features, which are delightfully expressive. Little ones will easily recognize and likely try to copy the sad, scared and angry looks that cross the fish’s face.

An upbeat early book on feelings with a simple storyline that little ones will respond to. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-37084-8

Page Count: 12

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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