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A sumptuously illustrated tale pays homage to Frances Hodgson Burnett’s classic. While Mayhew (To Sleep, Perchance to Dream, 2001, etc.) loosely refers to the original work, his subtle alterations and embellishments make this a unique extension of Burnett’s story rather than an exact replica. Basking in the warmth of a summer day, Sophie, whose favorite book just happens to contain a secret garden, wishes for a companion. This desire spurs a dream-like sequence where fey woodland creatures lead Sophie on a merry game of seek-and-find, drawing her deeper through the woods. She follows a robin carrying a key to a walled garden, which contains a squirrel frolicking with a hat. Further explorations reveal a lamb carrying a jump rope and a fox playing with a doll. Gathering the playthings, Sophie admonishes the animals, somewhat hopefully, with the refrain “Somebody will be looking for this!” Eventually, she discovers a young girl—and new playmate—named Mary. Mayhew’s exquisitely detailed, full-page illustrations lend an ethereal quality to the outing. Delicate cut-outs in the pages allow readers to glimpse the next clues in Sophie’s sleuthing game, while the soft watercolors capture the lush beauty of a summer garden filled with variegated hues. Waiting for discovery in the intricate paintings are an abundance of whimsical details to delight readers. A lovely seduction to tempt readers to the longer story. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 0-439-40435-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Chicken House/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2003

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Give this child’s-eye view of a day at the beach with an attentive father high marks for coziness: “When your ball blows across the sand and into the ocean and starts to drift away, your daddy could say, Didn’t I tell you not to play too close to the waves? But he doesn’t. He wades out into the cold water. And he brings your ball back to the beach and plays roll and catch with you.” Alley depicts a moppet and her relaxed-looking dad (to all appearances a single parent) in informally drawn beach and domestic settings: playing together, snuggling up on the sofa and finally hugging each other goodnight. The third-person voice is a bit distancing, but it makes the togetherness less treacly, and Dad’s mix of love and competence is less insulting, to parents and children both, than Douglas Wood’s What Dads Can’t Do (2000), illus by Doug Cushman. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 23, 2005

ISBN: 0-618-00361-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2005

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From the I Can Read! series

Another quirky take on the series theme that it’s cool to be kind.

The cool beans again step up to do a timorous fellow legume a fava…this time at the pool.

Will a rash decision to tackle the multistory super-slide lead to another embarrassing watery fail for our shy protagonist? Nope, for up the stairs right behind comes a trio of cool beans, each a different type and color, all clad in nothing but dark shades. They make an offer: “It’s not as scary if you go with friends!” As the knobby nerd explains once the thrilling ride down is done, “They all realized that I just needed some encouragement and support.” Just to make sure that both cool and uncool readers get the message, the narrator lets us know that “there are plenty of kind folks who have my back. They’re always there when I need them.” The beany bonhomie doesn’t end at the bottom of the slide, with all gliding down to the shallow end of the pool (“3 INCHES. NO DIVING”) for a splashy finale. This latest early reader starring characters from John and Oswald’s immensely popular Food Group series will be a hit with fans. Fun accessories, such as a bean who rocks pink cat-eye frames, add some pizzazz to the chromatically and somatotypically varied cast.

Another quirky take on the series theme that it’s cool to be kind. (Easy reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 26, 2024

ISBN: 9780063329560

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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