Lackluster text, muddy message, poor character development: not cool

PETE THE CAT AND THE NEW GUY

Pete the Cat tries to find an inclusive activity for the “new guy” in town.

Pete and his pals are jamming when the “new guy” moves in next door: It’s Gus the platypus, who sports a backward baseball cap and a goofy smile. Professing eagerness to make a new friend (as always, it’s hard to tell from his heavy-lidded, couldn’t-care-less expression), Pete acknowledges Gus’ physiological peculiarities by assuring him that “I think being different is really very cool.” But how to include Gus? He can’t climb like Squirrel, jump like Toad or juggle like Octopus. Despite Pete’s encouraging if vague refrain—“Don’t be sad, / don’t be blue. / There is something / everyone can do!”—Gus, despondent, retreats to his house and consoles himself with his drum set. Pete exclaims, “He found something cool he can do with us!” The text is cast in a loose, poorly metered rhyme that dissolves into prose and then reforms with no apparent pattern. The message of inclusiveness is likewise incompletely explored. Why doesn’t Pete ever just ask Gus what he likes to do instead of flailing about aimlessly? For that matter, why don’t the Deans give Gus a personality? For all Pete’s stated embrace of “being different,” there is no attempt to develop or celebrate Gus’ difference in any meaningful way.

Lackluster text, muddy message, poor character development: not cool . (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-227560-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 10, 2014

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Readers are likely to love it to the moon and back.

WILL YOU BE MY FRIEND?

Little Nutbrown Hare ventures out into the wide world and comes back with a new companion in this sequel to Guess How Much I Love You (1994).

Big Nutbrown Hare is too busy, so after asking permission, Little Nutbrown Hare scampers off over the rolling meadow to play by himself. After discovering that neither his shadow nor his reflection make satisfactory playmates (“You’re only another me!”), Little Nutbrown comes to Cloudy Mountain…and meets “Someone real!” It’s a white bunny who introduces herself as Tipps. But a wonderful round of digging and building and chasing about reaches an unexpected end with a game of hide-and-seek, because both hares hide! After waiting a long time to be found, Little Nutbrown Hare hops on home in disappointment, wondering whether he’ll ever see Tipps again. As it turns out, it doesn’t take long to find out, since she has followed him. “Now, where on earth did she come from?” wonders Big Nutbrown. “Her name is Tipps,” Little Nutbrown proudly replies, “and she’s my friend.” Jeram’s spacious, pale-toned, naturalistic outdoor scenes create a properly idyllic setting for this cozy development in a tender child-caregiver relationship—which hasn’t lost a bit of its appealing intimacy in the more than 25 years since its first appearance. As in the first, Big Nutbrown Hare is ungendered, facilitating pleasingly flexible readings.

Readers are likely to love it to the moon and back. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1747-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for...

OLIVER AND HIS EGG

Oliver, of first-day-of-school alligator fame, is back, imagining adventures and still struggling to find balance between introversion and extroversion.

“When Oliver found his egg…” on the playground, mint-green backgrounds signifying Oliver’s flight into fancy slowly grow larger until they take up entire spreads; Oliver’s creature, white and dinosaurlike with orange polka dots, grows larger with them. Their adventures include sharing treats, sailing the seas and going into outer space. A classmate’s yell brings him back to reality, where readers see him sitting on top of a rock. Even considering Schmid’s scribbly style, readers can almost see the wheels turning in his head as he ponders the girl and whether or not to give up his solitary play. “But when Oliver found his rock… // Oliver imagined many adventures // with all his friends!” This last is on a double gatefold that opens to show the children enjoying the creature’s slippery curves. A final wordless spread depicts all the children sitting on rocks, expressions gleeful, wondering, waiting, hopeful. The illustrations, done in pastel pencil and digital color, again make masterful use of white space and page turns, although this tale is not nearly as funny or tongue-in-cheek as Oliver and His Alligator (2013), nor is its message as clear and immediately accessible to children.

Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for all children but sadly isn’t. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7573-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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