Fairy-tale and nursery-rhyme characters help young children go to sleep in this beautiful bedtime book.

In simple rhyming verse Arena bids good night to a host of well-known characters: “Sleep tight, / Snow White. / Seven dwarves / say good night”; “Rest your head, / Little Red. / Forget the Wolf. / It’s time for bed.” Some of the rhymes have a slight tongue-in-cheek bent, as in: “Don’t rough it, / Little Miss Muffet. / Fluff a pillow— / chuck the tuffet!” And one rhyme may raise the eyebrows of feminist readers: “Want a fella, / Cinderella? / Eight hours’ sleep / will make you bella.” In all, 15 different characters make an appearance; most are female except for Prince Charming, Little Boy Blue, who make solo appearances, and Hansel, Jack, and Beast, who appear with Gretel, Jill, and Beauty, respectively. Each character or character duo is given a full two-page spread, illustrated in a gloriously exuberant style with an equally vibrant palette by Alvarez. The characters each sport different hair and skin colors in a range of hues. If little ones are not yet familiar with the fairy tales and nursery rhymes alluded to, use this as an excuse to introduce them to what could be called a cultural common language. Pair this with Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s classic Each Peach Pear Plum (1978) for a multiracial update.

A visual bedtime treat. (Picture book/poetry. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93713-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Hard-to-find numbers make this counting book one to skip.


Four-line poems introduce the numbers zero to nine opposite stylized, colorful mixed-media illustrations that incorporate them.

The relevant numeral is printed clearly over each poem and worked into the pictures, with dotted blue lines to help readers find them. This device sometimes works against itself. For example, the poem headed “3” reads: “Curve out and back in— / Do it once, then repeat: / A three is red pepper / On pizza. Let’s eat!” The poem is inviting, but the red pepper 3’s on the pizza slices opposite are obscured by the dotted blue lines superimposed on them. There are also three people to count and three tuning pegs on the banjo one kid plays. Those elements of the illustration are clear enough, but locating the numeral can be hard. Most pictures share this difficulty, although some, like the two balls of the snowman representing 8, are easier to spot. (Eight children play around the snowman, and there are eight pieces of coal marking its features.) The pictures include people with varying skin tones. In acknowledgment of the difficulty of the concept, a concluding double-page spread with number shapes incorporated into the composition is followed by an identical spread with the number shapes circled for readers to confirm their guesses. The rear endpapers offer each numeral with a corresponding number of thumbnails from the appropriate earlier spread for extra practice.

Hard-to-find numbers make this counting book one to skip. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 22, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4321-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A bright grab bag.


Having put her own spin on traditional nursery rhymes in My Very First Mother Goose (1986) and Here Comes Mother Goose (1999), both edited by Iona Opie, Wells now interprets some of Milne’s children’s verse.

Where the original title had 44 poems, some confined to a page and others extending to a handful, with Ernest Shepard’s illustrations acting mostly as decoration, Wells here presents 13, many sprawling over several pages and accompanied by bright, busy illustrations that turn each one into a narrative. When James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree’s mother goes “down to the edge of the town” without him in “Disobedience,” she hops into a black London cab driven by a rabbit, stops to make a call from a red phone box, and comes home in a different cab (driven by a cat) with a white terrier puppy for her son. Meanwhile, wee James telephones some nine people, including the royal family, with Wells’ interpolated dialogue presented in speech balloons. There’s so much side business the propulsive silliness of the original rhyme gets lost. Shorter poems, such as “Independence” and “Happiness” (both of which involve independent-thinking cat children), fare better, and sequential illustrations for “The King’s Breakfast” work well to convey the many back-and-forths endured by the Dairymaid. Most humans present White, though there are characters of color (including, a bit oddly, Christopher Robin).

A bright grab bag. (glossary) (Poetry. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-324-01653-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Norton Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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