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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Though Penguin doesn’t discover any of his own true talents, young listeners will probably empathize with wanting something...

FLIGHT SCHOOL

From the Flight School series

A small round penguin with lofty aspirations finds success of a sort in a sweet, if slight, appreciation of the resourcefulness of teachers.

The sign near a cluster of wooden pilings in the middle of the water reads “FLIGHT SCHOOL / WE TEACH BIRDS TO FLY.” “I was hatched to fly,” announces Penguin upon his arrival from the South Pole. “I have the soul of an eagle,” he assures the gently dubious Teacher. “Penguin and the other birdies practiced for weeks,” but he succeeds only in plunging into the ocean—not terribly gracefully. He is ready to give up when a solution devised by Teacher and Flamingo has Penguin flying, if only for a few moments, and his happiness at this one-time achievement is lasting. Judge’s edge-to-edge watercolor-and-pencil art is lively and amusing. Her various sea and shore birds—gulls, a pelican, a heron and a small owl among them—and their fledglings are just a little scruffy, and they are exaggeratedly, expressively funny in their anthropomorphic roles as teachers and students. Background shades of warm yellow, sea blue and green, and brown sand let the friendly, silly faces and bodies of the birds take center stage.

Though Penguin doesn’t discover any of his own true talents, young listeners will probably empathize with wanting something so far out of reach. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: April 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-14424-8177-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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