The concise narrative, cohesive design, and well-executed illustrations make this story easy to understand and appreciate.

FROM WOLF TO WOOF

THE STORY OF DOGS

Talbott presents an imaginative origin for the early human-wolf bond and explores how that bond changed both species.

All dogs, even tiny toy poodles, are descended from wolves. When wolves and humans first interacted—an interaction that, over time, resulted in the domesticated dog—is unknown. Author/illustrator Talbott crafts one possibility in his appealing story of an orphan child and an orphan wolf pup. Sometime in prehistory (presumably in Europe, judging by the child’s light skin), a hungry, howling wolf pup is thrown a bone by an orphan child who is also scavenging. Gradually the two form a friendship, and more outcast humans and wolves join them. Hunting together—the wolves surrounding the prey as the humans spear it—the band realizes that they are more successful together than separate. Thousands of years pass, and the human-wolf bond becomes the human-dog bond as dogs become the diverse breeds (all bred to perform tasks for humans) that we know today. The tight narrative and Talbott’s watercolor, ink, and colored-pencil illustrations do a good job of keeping the story lively. One bone to pick: a double-page spread near the beginning depicts a pack of wolves as much scarier visually than necessary, especially when juxtaposed against the story’s later plea to help today’s wolves survive.

The concise narrative, cohesive design, and well-executed illustrations make this story easy to understand and appreciate. (author’s note, websites, bibliography) (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-399-25404-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2016

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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

CARPENTER'S HELPER

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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