A sweet, brief glimpse into a universal childhood experience in a very specific place


Better safe than sorry when you don’t feel well.

In a small village in eastern Nigeria, Vicky, who looks about 6, watches listlessly as her friends play all around her and doesn’t take part. Nor does she join in when they start drawing pictures. Vicky also won’t eat her mother’s food, a sure sign that something’s wrong. Her father feels her forehead; it’s hot. Her mother declares she must take Vicky to the doctor. The clinic’s not far away, so they’re able to walk. The doctor, a grandmotherly woman with wire-rimmed eyeglasses, has a gentle manner. She takes Vicky’s temperature and listens to her chest, recommending that the little girl be kept cool and given lots of water. In no time, Vicky feels much better, displaying a healthy appetite and playing and drawing pictures with her friends again. The high-resolution color photographs that illustrate the book provide many interesting details of village life in Nigeria, and Vicky makes a winsome protagonist. In contrast, the story is a bit flat, and Onyefulu’s text has the brevity and stiltedness of a primer. This accessibility should appeal to beginning readers, but as a read-aloud it suffers. Ife’s First Haircut, a companion piece featuring an adorable male toddler, shares this offering’s strengths and weaknesses.

A sweet, brief glimpse into a universal childhood experience in a very specific place .(Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-84780-363-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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Precious—but timely and comforting all the same.


From the Hedgehog and Tortoise Story series

The two creatures who fulfilled each other’s yearning for physical contact in The Hug (2019) find alternative ways to connect in a time of social distancing.

Blushing and smiling and looking every bit as sweet as they did in their original meet-cute, Hedgehog and Tortoise respond to Owl’s reassurance that “there are lots of ways to show someone you love them” by standing on opposing pages and sending signals, letters, dances, air kisses, and songs across the gutter. Demonstrating their mutual love and friendship, they regard each other fondly across the gap through sun and storm, finally gesturing air hugs beneath a rainbow of colors and stars. “They could not touch. / They could not hug. // But they both knew / that they were loved.” In line with the minimalist narrative and illustrations there is no mention of the enforced separation’s cause nor, aside from the titular conjunction, any hint of its possible duration. Still, its core affirmation is delivered in a simple, direct, unmistakable way, and if the thematic connection with the previous outing seems made to order for a marketing opportunity, it does address a widespread emotional need in young (and maybe not so young) audiences. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.8-by-19.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 78% of actual size.)

Precious—but timely and comforting all the same. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-5713-6558-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Visually, Dirtball Pete is a charmer—a begrimed lad with a thatch of unruly hair, a crooked smile and button eyes as black as tar. He wears his dirt well, and even when his mother scrubs him squeaky clean in preparation for a school recital he is still cherubic, though every reader will know it won’t take long for Pete to look like he was used as a chimney brush. Brennan’s text is likewise pleasing, with an idiosyncratic beat: “With one final tidying, then a big kiss, then a quick swipe of a tissue to remove the kiss, then one last smoothing of his hair…” But somewhere along the line the story gets left behind. Pete’s a dirtball, Pete gets cleaned to give his public presentation, Pete gets dirty but still gives his recital, Pete gets a big round of applause because he talks the loudest. Being loud doesn’t follow in any sense from his grunginess, nor does it add to Pete’s persona. Introduced so late in the proceedings, it’s like the author threw a little water on our hero, muddying his heart-robbing filthiness. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-375-83425-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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