Don’t expect kids to pause to identify the mischief-makers or talk about the pictures, at least at first—do expect a request...

IT'S NOT THE PUPPY

The big-eyed pup on the cover of this board book is obviously a scamp and quite possibly to blame for all sorts of mayhem—or maybe not.

Each page shows a different character engaged in some activity, often mischievous, that might be expected from a dog, but the picture and text clearly indicate otherwise. The actual culprits are not named, and not all are animals. They include a bunny, raccoon, cat, and three children. Young children will quickly pick up the refrain, “It’s not the puppy?”—the proper response to the unobtrusively rhyming question posed on each left-hand page. The language is clear and direct: “When he waves his furry tail, / who knocks down the garbage pail?” The lively, cartoon illustrations include plenty of related details—flowers in the garden where the bunny digs, flies buzzing around the garbage can a raccoon has raided. Unfortunately, the pictures of children tend to reinforce gender stereotypes with what appears to be boys having active roles—tracking in mud while chasing a ball and practicing “doggy paddles in the tub.” The only child textually identified by gender is a girl hiding from thunder. The final picture is of another, less-fearful pigtailed child waking to “a big wet kiss surprise… / it IS the puppy!” All children depicted have brown skin and curly black hair.

Don’t expect kids to pause to identify the mischief-makers or talk about the pictures, at least at first—do expect a request to “read it again.” (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: March 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68152-409-2

Page Count: 14

Publisher: Amicus Ink

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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A joyful celebration.

FAMILIES BELONG

Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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Perfect for Valentine’s Day, but the syrupy sweetness will cloy after the holiday.

THE ABCS OF LOVE

Animal parents declare their love for their offspring in alphabetical order.

Each page displays an enormous capital letter, one line of verse with the keyword capitalized, and a loving nonhuman parent gazing adoringly at their baby. “A is for Always. I always love you more. / B is for Butterfly kisses. It’s you that I adore.” While not named or labelled as such, the A is also for an alligator and its hatchling and B is for a butterfly and a butterfly child (not a caterpillar—biology is not the aim of this title) interacting in some way with the said letter. For E there are an elephant and a calf; U features a unicorn and foal; and X, keyed to the last letter of the animal’s name, corresponds to a fox and three pups. The final double-page spread shows all the featured creatures and their babies as the last line declares: “Baby, I love you from A to Z!” The verse is standard fare and appropriately sentimental. The art is cartoony-cute and populated by suitably loving critters on solid backgrounds. Hearts accent each scene, but the theme of the project is never in any doubt.

Perfect for Valentine’s Day, but the syrupy sweetness will cloy after the holiday. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-2095-6

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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