ROCK-A-BYE BABY

Ho-hum.

A riff on the familiar lullaby depicts various animal parents, and then a human father, soothing their sleepy little ones.

An opening spread includes the traditional first verse of the titular lullaby, but instead of depicting a human baby in a treetop cradle, the accompanying illustration shows a large tree as habitat to the animals that are highlighted on subsequent pages. First the perspective zooms in on a painterly illustration rendered in acrylics of a mother squirrel cuddling her baby with text reading “Rock-a-bye Squirrel, / high in the tree, / in Mommy’s arms, / cozy as can be.” In this spread and others the cadence doesn’t quite fit with the familiar tune, and repeated verses featuring different animals—all opening with the “Rock-a-bye” line—don’t give way to the resolution. No winds blow, no boughs break, and the repetitive forced rhythm of the verse could cause stumbles when attempting a read-aloud. The final image of a human father and baby, whose skin tone and hair texture suggest that they are perhaps of South Asian descent, provides pleasing visual resolution in a book with art that outshines text.

Ho-hum. (Picture book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3753-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

SHARKS

From the Science for Toddlers series

There are better fish in the board-book sea.

Dramatic stock photos and die-cut tabs are the distinguishing features of this board book.

“Did you know that there are over 400 types of sharks?” is an intriguing opening, but readers primed to find out about those specific types may be surprised that the shark on the facing page is not identified. Instead, the picture of a shark above a school of fish gives a sense of its size. Smaller text explains that shark skeletons are made of cartilage, not bone. Layered die cuts that accentuate the nose and mouth of nine different sharks on the right-hand pages invite children to turn the pages quickly. White type printed against various contrasting colors on the left-hand pages offers tidbits of information but is unlikely to make young children pause long enough to be read the text. A picture of almost 40 sharks swimming together seems to contradict the accompanying explanation that many sharks are endangered. A final full-color spread speaks of sharks’ important role in maintaining ocean balance and includes a picture of a grandfatherly shark scientist. The back cover is devoted to information for adults. While intriguing and scientifically credible, the wordy text and seemingly arbitrary factoids are well beyond the attention spans of all but the most avid young fans of the species.

There are better fish in the board-book sea. (Board book. 3-4)

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2128-8

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

ANIMALS HIDE AND SNEAK

Handsome but so sneaky as to be frustrating.

Youngsters are invited to find the object or creature that doesn’t fit in with a similar grouping of animals.

In arrays spread out on (mostly) double-page spreads, a rocking horse hides among a drove of real horses, a cat sits with a variety of breeds of dogs, and so on. The project is wordless except for the introductory text that introduces the game with echoes of Sesame Street: “One of these things is almost like the others….” Some of the groupings are quite clever: a straight belt is placed amid a row of curvy snakes, a mechanical crane is perched between a living crane and two other long-legged birds, and the sole human figure, who looks to be a shirtless white male, is the only being to walk on two legs in a primate troop. To assist guessers, the final double-page spread shows all the outliers from the subsequent groupings. Using only yellow, purple, and a deep and dusky brown that is created when these two shades are mixed, Contraire uses stencils to create his figures against a creamy white background. While many of the animals and objects are instantly recognizable, the contrast of the mostly yellow critters against white backgrounds makes identification tricky for the board-book set. And while the book design is handsome, the lack of color variation in the art gives the offering a one-note feel.

Handsome but so sneaky as to be frustrating. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: May 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7148-7422-7

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Phaidon

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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