Reverent for all its gently tweaked premise but careless with cultural markers.



In this deceptively solemn retelling of the Epiphany, the three kings not only travel with their wives to Bethlehem, but defer to their sensible suggestions for gifts.

Following a course traced by fingertip on a very generalized recurring map, Queen Hekima and King Balthazar travel from North Africa to pick up King Caspar and Queen Sophia in the Balkans and King Melchior and Queen Mingzhi in China. The party then makes its way to Bethlehem to kneel and worship at the manger—with the traditional gifts rather than, as the kings first impractically propose, a live lion, a heavy golden crown and a massive throne. Along with a tap-activated chorus of angels and occasional camel noises, snatches of “We Three Kings” and other music play in the background on short loops; touching the angel icon beside each block of text activates an even-toned audio reading. The cutout figures in Barlogh’s illustrations are dressed in richly colored if generic regional costumes. They drift or change position with a tap amid, in some scenes, tilt-sensitive showers of leaves or cherry blossoms. Handsome as it is, the art is a weak link; in one scene, book-loving Sophia points to a scroll of Latin that accompanies a picture of an infant baptism as she refers to the baby being “blessed at the Temple.”

Reverent for all its gently tweaked premise but careless with cultural markers. (iPad holiday app. 6-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2013


Page Count: -

Publisher: James Allen

Review Posted Online: Sept. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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Like an ocean-going “Lion and the Mouse,” a humpback whale and a snail “with an itchy foot” help each other out in this cheery travelogue. Responding to a plaintive “Ride wanted around the world,” scrawled in slime on a coastal rock, whale picks up snail, then sails off to visit waters tropical and polar, stormy and serene before inadvertently beaching himself. Off hustles the snail, to spur a nearby community to action with another slimy message: “SAVE THE WHALE.” Donaldson’s rhyme, though not cumulative, sounds like “The house that Jack built”—“This is the tide coming into the bay, / And these are the villagers shouting, ‘HOORAY!’ / As the whale and the snail travel safely away. . . .” Looking in turn hopeful, delighted, anxious, awed, and determined, Scheffler’s snail, though tiny next to her gargantuan companion, steals the show in each picturesque seascape—and upon returning home, provides so enticing an account of her adventures that her fellow mollusks all climb on board the whale’s tail for a repeat voyage. Young readers will clamor to ride along. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-8037-2922-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2004

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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