This attempt to convey big ideas enjoys little success.

YOU BIG AND ME SMALL

Size matters.

At least it does to the lion, king of the animals, who begrudgingly welcomes a little orphaned elephant seeking shelter at his palace. The pair becomes inseparable, enjoying stories and games. Years pass; the elephant grows, as small creatures do. The lion, never large anyway, has stopped growing, as is the wont of adults. The relationship sours; the king demands reassurance that, despite the size differential, he is dominant. The elephant, as big in character as in stature and girth, repeatedly allows that the king is big and he is small. Appeasement doesn’t work, and the king banishes the elephant. Much later the elephant encounters the now-wizened, forlorn lion, who concedes he was overthrown for arrogance and pride. The elephant staunchly proclaims the lion is still royal and big, and they return to the palace. This odd French fable, a Canadian import, seems aimed to convey messages about the folly of false pride and the beauty of true friendship. Are readers also warned about parent-child relationships? If so, how—should kids not grow, or adults will abandon them? The narrative’s lack of clarity, abetted by uneven translation (occasional mixing of tenses), is softened somewhat by vivid if static oil paintings. Readers will appreciate the elephant’s bemused expressiveness but may find the depiction of the lion with human face and extremities creepy.

This attempt to convey big ideas enjoys little success. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-2281-0000-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Firefly

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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As ephemeral as a valentine.

LOVE FROM THE CRAYONS

Daywalt and Jeffers’ wandering crayons explore love.

Each double-page spread offers readers a vision of one of the anthropomorphic crayons on the left along with the statement “Love is [color].” The word love is represented by a small heart in the appropriate color. Opposite, childlike crayon drawings explain how that color represents love. So, readers learn, “love is green. / Because love is helpful.” The accompanying crayon drawing depicts two alligators, one holding a recycling bin and the other tossing a plastic cup into it, offering readers two ways of understanding green. Some statements are thought-provoking: “Love is white. / Because sometimes love is hard to see,” reaches beyond the immediate image of a cat’s yellow eyes, pink nose, and black mouth and whiskers, its white face and body indistinguishable from the paper it’s drawn on, to prompt real questions. “Love is brown. / Because sometimes love stinks,” on the other hand, depicted by a brown bear standing next to a brown, squiggly turd, may provoke giggles but is fundamentally a cheap laugh. Some of the color assignments have a distinctly arbitrary feel: Why is purple associated with the imagination and pink with silliness? Fans of The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) hoping for more clever, metaliterary fun will be disappointed by this rather syrupy read.

As ephemeral as a valentine. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-9268-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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