Clever and reasonably sturdy but with a significant misstep.

MASQUERADE PARTY

Put a party spin on a topic even young children have heard a lot about lately: masks.

A hat and mask over the eyes is just enough disguise for nine smiling, costumed animals. A question is posed on the verso of each spread: “Who is…?” It’s answered by lifting the mask on the right: “It is….” The cover flap, a Little Red Riding Hood mask, hides “the wicked wolf.” Other pairings are less obviously linked. A “fun firefighter” turns out to be a “brave bear.” Lift the “plucky pirate” mask to find a “playful pig.” Eyes, nose, and mouth are clearly visible in each illustration, with a costume prop in the paw of the hidden animal. The wolf on the final spread proves to be Little Red Riding Hood, completing the story circle. Descriptive alliteration on every page uses sophisticated vocabulary. Little Red, the only human character, is White with blond braids. Animal stereotypes creep in, some based on folklore tropes. The fox is disguised as a “sly sorcerer”—signaled, in a deeply unfortunate Orientalist choice, with a turban—but the bunny is “cuddly,” and the dog is “handsome” and “daring.” Use with supervision lest the eye holes on the oversized flaps rip when grasped by eager little fingers.

Clever and reasonably sturdy but with a significant misstep. (Board book. 1-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-988-8342-06-8

Page Count: 16

Publisher: minedition

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S VALENTINE

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. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Likely to be popular with young Pete the Cat fans and parents seeking a gentle introduction to preschool.

PETE THE KITTY'S FIRST DAY OF PRESCHOOL

From the Pete the Cat series

The popular character enjoys storytime, painting, and a snack on the very first day of preschool.

The younger incarnation of Pete the Cat packs his backpack that he picked out from the store himself, gets a snack from his mom, and rides the school bus with his big brother, Bob (who isn’t much bigger than Pete, sizewise). At school, Pete meets his stylish teacher, Mrs. Lopez, and fellow feline classmates while keeping his signature cool. The day ends with Pete declaring: “Preschool is awesome! Pete loves everything!” James Dean’s big-eyed cats populate the simply drawn scenes that look as though they were painted in preschool-esque fashion with thick swaths of tempera. At a couple of moments (when he eats his banana and declares it tasty and when he sings along) his customarily expressionless face actually breaks into a smile. Kimberly Dean’s text is uninspired, but it’s in sync with the upbeat tone of the series. Pete’s preschool experience, while not particularly realistic, is a highly positive one; refreshingly, there is no trace of the separation anxiety or anxiousness found in many first-day-of-school books.

Likely to be popular with young Pete the Cat fans and parents seeking a gentle introduction to preschool. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: June 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06243582-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: HarperFestival

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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