SALSA LULLABY

A slight effort with minimal cultural references.

It’s bedtime, and Baby isn’t having it. What’s a parent to do?

No problem—just dial up some hip-swaying, foot-moving salsa music! In the kitchen, Mami kicks up her heels with the baby bottle while Papi dances his giggling infant across the living room floor. The exuberant family dog joins in the fun as Papi spins Mami around. Finally, the baby cuddles in Mami’s arms as the dance slows. The salsa lullaby soothes as the baby’s parents tuck their tot in with a stuffed toy. While both child and doggy friend drift off to sleep, they continue following the salsa beat in their dreams. Unfortunately, Arena’s mostly English four-line verses fail to conjure salsa’s infectious beat and bobble a bit in one stanza: “Mami glides across the floor. / Papi sets the pace. / Baby sings la la la, / makes a silly face.” There are only seven Spanish words (not counting “Mami” or “Papi”) in the entire book—one per each two-line, nonrhyming refrain. “Baila, baby, baila. / Dance, dance, dance.” The phrase “Buenas noches” is paired with “Good night!” outside the preceding pattern and rhyme. Meza’s characters present as a loving Latinx family but appear to be dancing swing rather than salsa. A retro boombox is the source of the swirling musical notes and floral designs that also fail to evoke salsa’s spicy tempo. Maurie J. Manning’s Kitchen Dance (2008) is a more authentic choice.

A slight effort with minimal cultural references. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-57973-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

WITH ALL MY HEART

Sweet.

A caregiving bear shares with its cub how love has defined their relationship from the first moment and through the years as the cub has grown.

With rhymes and a steady rhythm that are less singsong-y than similar books, Stansbie seems to have hit a sweet spot for this offering on the I-love-you-always shelf. Readers follow the adult and child as they share special moments together—a sunset, a splash in a pond, climbing a tree, a snuggle—and the adult tells the child that the love it feels has only grown. Stansbie also takes care not to put promises in the adult bear’s mouth that can’t be delivered, acknowledging that physical proximity is not always possible: “Wherever you are, / even when we’re apart… // I’ll love you forever / with all of my heart.” The large trim size helps the sweet illustrations shine; their emphasis is on the close relationship between parent and child. Shaped peekaboo windows offer glimpses of preceding and succeeding pages, images and text carefully placed to work whatever the context. While the die cuts on the interior pages will not hold up to rough handling, they do add whimsy and delight to the book as a whole: “And now that you’re bigger, / you make my heart sing. / My / beautiful / wonderful / magical / thing.” Those last three adjectives are positioned in leaf-shaped cutouts, the turn of the page revealing the roly-poly cub in a pile of leaves, three formed by the die-cuts. Opposite, three vignettes show the cub appreciating the “beautiful,” the “wonderful,” and the “magical.”

Sweet. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68412-910-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Silver Dolphin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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