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

READ REVIEW

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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Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug.

THE HUG

What to do when you’re a prickly animal hankering for a hug? Why, find another misfit animal also searching for an embrace!

Sweet but “tricky to hug” little Hedgehog is down in the dumps. Wandering the forest, Hedgehog begs different animals for hugs, but each rejects them. Readers will giggle at their panicked excuses—an evasive squirrel must suddenly count its three measly acorns; a magpie begins a drawn-out song—but will also be indignant on poor hedgehog’s behalf. Hedgehog has the appealingly pink-cheeked softness typical of Dunbar’s art, and the gentle watercolors are nonthreatening, though she also captures the animals’ genuine concern about being poked. A wise owl counsels the dejected hedgehog that while the prickles may frighten some, “there’s someone for everyone.” That’s when Hedgehog spots a similarly lonely tortoise, rejected due to its “very hard” shell but perfectly matched for a spiky new friend. They race toward each other until the glorious meeting, marked with swoony peach swirls and overjoyed grins. At this point, readers flip the book to hear the same gloomy tale from the tortoise’s perspective until it again culminates in that joyous hug, a book turn that’s made a pleasure with thick creamy paper and solid binding.

Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-571-34875-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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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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