Pedagogically sound but mean-spirited.

MY TOOTHBRUSH IS MISSING!

From the Giggle Gang series

In the latest entry in the Giggle Gang series, Duck, Sheep, and Donkey help Dog find its missing toothbrush with unsettling results.

Holding a cup and toothpaste tube, Dog declares, “My toothbrush is missing!” Donkey innocently asks, “What does a toothbrush look like?” Each description (bristles, long handle, red handle) prompts Donkey to respond with, “Weird. I feel like I’ve seen it…” and to produce something similar—though inappropriate and silly, such as a cat (bristly whiskers), a broom, and an eggbeater with a short red handle. When Donkey resolves to give up trying to help and goes back to scrubbing its hoofs with, what else, a red toothbrush labeled “DOG,” Sheep concludes, “I think you need a new toothbrush” to Duck’s like-minded “Quack.” In companion title My Friends Make Me Happy! Sheep is the protagonist, asking its “FRIENDS!” if they can guess what makes him “HAPPY?” A hint that the answer starts with the letter “F” produces some silly responses: “FISH!” “FANS!” and “TURNIPS!” Sheep finally reveals the obvious answer, “It’s FRIENDS!” then laments, “My friends make me CRAZY!” (This usage is not redressed.) Bold colors and black-outlined cartoon digital art with repetitive balloon dialogue keep the focus on the simple language. An appended three-step short outline to encourage reading is good advice.

Pedagogically sound but mean-spirited. (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-96635-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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