Not quite just right but sure to please Brett’s fans.

THE MERMAID

More “The Three Bears” than “The Little Mermaid,” Brett’s latest picture book was inspired by her visits to Okinawa and the New England Aquarium, where she encountered the Pacific octopus.

The titular mermaid is named Kiniro, and her Japanese-inspired name, dark rather than golden tresses, and East Asian features are links to Brett’s Japanese inspiration for the story. Various illustrative details of the setting and characters’ costuming also seem tied to Japan, but the text is firmly rooted in the very English “The Three Bears.” While swimming with her friend Puffy (a puffer fish), Kiniro happens upon the house of an octopus family. In keeping with the folk-tale source material, Otosan (the father), Okasan (the mother), and Baby, an octopus family, have all gone out, leaving Kiniro to try their breakfast, their chairs, and their beds. In each instance she prefers Baby’s things, and she drifts off to sleep in a clamshell bed. Throughout, Brett’s signature sidebar illustrations show the octopus family on their outing, each wearing a hat. (A subplot about the octopuses’ hats detracts from the story with superfluous detail.) When they return, they are upset by Kiniro’s intrusion, but Puffy protects her, and they escape with a new friend in tow—a stingray who had been Baby’s hat and which Kiniro replaces with a tiara.

Not quite just right but sure to please Brett’s fans. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-17072-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Animated and educational.

I'M A HARE, SO THERE!

A hare and a ground squirrel banter about the differences between related animals that are often confused for one another.

Jack is “no Flopsy, Mopsy, or Cottontail,” but a “H-A-R-E, hare!” Like sheep and goats, or turtles and tortoises, rabbits and hares may look similar, but hares are bigger, their fur changes color in the winter, and they are born with their eyes wide open. As the ground squirrel (not to be mistaken for a chipmunk (even though Jack cheekily calls it “Chippie”) and Jack engage in playful discussion about animals, a sneaky coyote prowls after them through the Sonoran Desert. This picture book conveys the full narrative in spirited, speech-bubbled dialogue set on expressive illustrations of talking animals. Dark outlines around the characters make their shapes pop against the softly blended colors of the desert backgrounds. Snappy back-and-forth paired with repetition and occasional rhyme enhances the story’s appeal as a read-aloud. As the story progresses, the colors of the sky shift from dawn to dusk, providing subtle, visual bookends for the narrative. One page of backmatter offers a quick guide to eight easily confused pairs, and a second turns a subsequent exploration of the book into a seek-and-find of 15 creatures (and one dessert) hidden in the desert. Unfortunately, while most of the creatures from the seek-and-find appear in poses that match the illustrations in the challenge, not all of them are consistently represented. (This book was reviewed digitally with 7-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 53.3% of actual size.)

Animated and educational. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-12506-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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