As simple and soft as a hug—and as reassuring.

BIRD, BALLOON, BEAR

Bird’s new in the forest, and as much as he’d like to befriend Bear, he never quite gets up the courage to say hello.

When Bear happens upon a bouncing red balloon, one that dances and plays, Bird watches, hidden behind branches and tree trunks. Muted, wintry colors and recurring round shapes perfectly describe both Bird’s vulnerability and his meek desire for friendship. Looking at Bird’s plump belly, the balloon’s swollen circumference, Bear’s pillow-y body and ears, as well as at trees with dot-shaped leaves and at the loop-the-loop roller coaster and circling Ferris wheel in the distance, young readers will internalize an enveloping sense of roundness and soft edges, coming to recognize it as the very shape and feel of empathy. They know how Bird feels. They might remember peering out from behind caregivers’ legs to scout potential playmates, kicking pebbles in the recess yard, giving hopeful looks to another loner practicing handstands, meeting the eager, glinting eyes of a fellow camper across the campfire. Na’s illustrations—painterly layers of color, texture, and intuitive shapes—conjure tender associations, making his simple story not only immensely pleasing, but important. When Bird tries to rescue the balloon from the wind, making himself known, there’s a familiar rush of relief and joy. And a POP! that leads not to disaster but to friendship.

As simple and soft as a hug—and as reassuring. (Picture book. 2-6)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-55155-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S HALLOWEEN

A lift-the-flap book gives the littlest trick-or-treaters some practice identifying partygoers under their costumes.

Little Blue Truck and his buddy Toad are off to a party, and they invite readers (and a black cat) along for the ride: “ ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ / says Little Blue. / ‘It’s Halloween!’ / You come, too.” As they drive, they are surprised (and joined) by many of their friends in costume. “Who’s that in a tutu / striking a pose / up on the tiniest / tips of her toes? / Under the mask / who do you see?” Lifting the flap unmasks a friend: “ ‘Quack!’ says the duck. / ‘It’s me! It’s me!’ ” The sheep is disguised as a clown, the cow’s a queen, the pig’s a witch, the hen and her chick are pirates, and the horse is a dragon. Not to be left out, Little Blue has a costume, too. The flaps are large and sturdy, and enough of the animals’ characteristic features are visible under and around the costumes that little ones will be able to make successful guesses even on the first reading. Lovely curvy shapes and autumn colors fade to dusky blues as night falls, and children are sure to notice the traditional elements of a Halloween party: apple bobbing, lit jack-o’-lanterns, and punch and treats.

Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-77253-3

Page Count: 16

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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