Moderately inspired but tired all the same.

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TEMPLETON GETS HIS WISH

Pizzoli’s young cat, Templeton, gets what he wishes for, with predictable results.

Templeton is the eldest kitten in the house, so he is the beneficiary of all the usual stuff: demanding parents—“Scrub harder, Templeton!” “Clean up this mess!”—and a trio of brothers who take his favorite toys. He comes across an advertisement in a comic book for a magic diamond that grants wishes. “So he did something bad”—robbing a brother’s piggy bank—“and got something good in return.” That’s some rough philosophical ground, though it is also the most original—if disturbing—turf turned in this otherwise foreseeable tale. Templeton wishes his family gone; they disappear; he revels: playing, singing, lounging, making a mess of the house and himself. No more demands, no more sharing. Then things get boring, scary at night, stinky, and lonely. He wishes his family back, and back they come, same as they ever were, which is fine with Templeton: same demands, same sharing. Pizzoli brings extremely simple language to the task, and so too for the artwork, though here the complementary colors set eyeballs vibrating, and Templeton radiates a hepcat appeal. But the piggy-bank heist never gets revisited, ill wishes don’t get explored, and no twist gives the old story some fresh air.

Moderately inspired but tired all the same. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4847-1274-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2015

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Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug.

THE HUG

What to do when you’re a prickly animal hankering for a hug? Why, find another misfit animal also searching for an embrace!

Sweet but “tricky to hug” little Hedgehog is down in the dumps. Wandering the forest, Hedgehog begs different animals for hugs, but each rejects them. Readers will giggle at their panicked excuses—an evasive squirrel must suddenly count its three measly acorns; a magpie begins a drawn-out song—but will also be indignant on poor hedgehog’s behalf. Hedgehog has the appealingly pink-cheeked softness typical of Dunbar’s art, and the gentle watercolors are nonthreatening, though she also captures the animals’ genuine concern about being poked. A wise owl counsels the dejected hedgehog that while the prickles may frighten some, “there’s someone for everyone.” That’s when Hedgehog spots a similarly lonely tortoise, rejected due to its “very hard” shell but perfectly matched for a spiky new friend. They race toward each other until the glorious meeting, marked with swoony peach swirls and overjoyed grins. At this point, readers flip the book to hear the same gloomy tale from the tortoise’s perspective until it again culminates in that joyous hug, a book turn that’s made a pleasure with thick creamy paper and solid binding.

Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-571-34875-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Good bedtime reading.

POLAR BEAR ISLAND

Only polar bears are allowed on Polar Bear Island, until Kirby, a friendly, creative penguin, arrives on the scene.

On the verso of the first double-page spread, large white lettering proclaims against an azure sky: “Polar Bear Island was peaceful and predictable. Parker, the mayor, planned to keep it that way.” Below, Parker—paint can in left paw—can be seen facing his sign: “Welcome to Polar Bear Island. No Others Allowed.” On the recto, Kirby floats into view on an ice floe, with hat, scarf, and overstuffed suitcase. When Kirby arrives, Parker grudgingly allows her an overnight stay. However, she soon proves her worth to the other bears; she has invented Flipper Slippers, which keep extremities warm and reverse from skates to snowshoes. Now Kirby is allowed to stay and help the bears make their own Flipper Slippers. When her family shows up with more inventions, Parker feels compelled to give them a week. (Presumably, the penguins have made the 12,430-mile-trip from the South Pole to the North Pole, characterized merely as “a long journey.”) A minor crisis permanently changes Parker’s attitudes about exclusivity. The text is accessible and good fun to read aloud. The weakness of the ostensible theme of granting welcome to newcomers lies in the fact that all the newcomers are immediately, obviously useful to the bears. The cartoonlike, scratchboard-ish graphics are lighthearted and full of anthropomorphic touches.

Good bedtime reading. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2870-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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