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A refreshing first-birthday book, with subtleties for adult readers and details for little ones.

It’s a first birthday celebration for baby, and lots of baby friends join in the festivities.

The book opens on baby waiting expectantly to be lifted from the crib and progresses through all of the birthday fun, showing friends arriving, cake, and ice cream before closing with bathtime, snuggles, and sleep. Godwin and Bell’s text focuses on the birthday baby and friends, and the story is told almost entirely through descriptions of the babies and Blackwood’s illustrations of them. “Lazy baby” describes a sleeping friend, “brave baby” goes down the slide head first, and “sad baby” has just lost dessert to the dog. No pronouns are ever used to describe the babies, and while some wear dresses or tutus, there is no specific gender attached to any particular illustration—a nice touch, whether intentional or not. Some tots are browner than others (the protagonist presents white), and a pair of twins are cued as black via their hairstyles. Blackwood’s illustrations nevertheless are lovely, with her customary delicately energetic line and a palette of mostly primary red, yellow, and blue. Adult readers will appreciate the two-page spread that so accurately depicts what it’s like trying to take a photo of a group of wiggly little ones. Overall, this is a nice approach to the classic first-birthday book, offering a sense of play and nuance in both the brief text and the lovely illustrations.

A refreshing first-birthday book, with subtleties for adult readers and details for little ones. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: March 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7034-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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From the Kissing Hand series

Parents of toddlers starting school or day care should seek separation-anxiety remedies elsewhere, and fans of the original...

A sweetened, condensed version of the best-selling picture book, The Kissing Hand.

As in the original, Chester Raccoon is nervous about attending Owl’s night school (raccoons are nocturnal). His mom kisses him on the paw and reminds him, “With a Kissing Hand… / We’ll never be apart.” The text boils the story down to its key elements, causing this version to feel rushed. Gone is the list of fun things Chester will get to do at school. Fans of the original may be disappointed that this board edition uses a different illustrator. Gibson’s work is equally sentimental, but her renderings are stiff and flat in comparison to the watercolors of Harper and Leak. Very young readers will probably not understand that Owl’s tree, filled with opossums, a squirrel, a chipmunk and others, is supposed to be a school.

Parents of toddlers starting school or day care should seek separation-anxiety remedies elsewhere, and fans of the original shouldn’t look to this version as replacement for their page-worn copies. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-933718-77-4

Page Count: 14

Publisher: Tanglewood Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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From the Big Bright Feelings series

A heartwarming story about facing fears and acceptance.

A boy with wings learns to be himself and inspires others like him to soar, too.

Norman, a “perfectly normal” boy, never dreamed he might grow wings. Afraid of what his parents might say, he hides his new wings under a big, stuffy coat. Although the coat hides his wings from the world, Norman no longer finds joy in bathtime, playing at the park, swimming, or birthday parties. With the gentle encouragement of his parents, who see his sadness, Norman finds the courage to come out of hiding and soar. Percival (The Magic Looking Glass, 2017, etc.) depicts Norman with light skin and dark hair. Black-and-white illustrations show his father with dark skin and hair and his mother as white. The contrast of black-and-white illustrations with splashes of bright color complements the story’s theme. While Norman tries to be “normal,” the world and people around him look black and gray, but his coat stands out in yellow. Birds pop from the page in pink, green, and blue, emphasizing the joy and beauty of flying free. The final spread, full of bright color and multiracial children in flight, sets the mood for Norman’s realization on the last page that there is “no such thing as perfectly normal,” but he can be “perfectly Norman.”

A heartwarming story about facing fears and acceptance. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68119-785-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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