A paper-thin piece of work, which makes leaving an impression near impossible.

Cousins on either side of the puberty divide find common ground in Nana’s surprise birthday party.

The narrator of this tale is a youngish boy who has to contend with his blossoming cousin Hortense during a stay one summer at the family lakeside cabin. The visit might once have been cause for joy—monkeying around on the tire swing, swimming and building sand castles, picking berries, sharing a room—but that is either inappropriate or off the table, since Hortense is now a young lady (with airs to boot, though that theme is not developed, unless using a blow-dryer sums it up). Hortense doesn’t want to have much to do with the no-name narrator, until out of the blue she says, “I know I haven’t been playing with you as much as you’d hoped. And I’m sorry. But I have an idea.” The idea is to throw Nana a birthday party, which the narrator turns into a surprise party, to everyone’s delight. The story is too glancing to develop much sympathy for any of the characters—“I’m not impressed,” is the narrator’s refrain, along with “gross!”—and the narrator is too young to delve meaningfully into Hortense’s changes. The artwork, on the other hand, is a lovely display of chalk pastel; even if the characters look like Claymation gnomes, the colors look like they are lit from within, giving a fairy-tale quality to the work.

A paper-thin piece of work, which makes leaving an impression near impossible. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-77049-324-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013



Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022


A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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