No playing around: Here’s a charming tale that kids will return to again and again.

PLAYING POSSUM

Two frightened animals deal with loneliness. Can they become friends?

Alfred, a possum, freezes and plays dead whenever he’s nervous. This is problematic, as he’s frequently nervous. Making friends seems unachievable. Then Alfred meets Sofia, an armadillo. She’s also nervous—and when an armadillo feels nervous, it curls into a ball. On their first encounter, each adopts their signature coping strategy. However, realizing they have something in common, the potential pals unfreeze and uncurl and feel better about themselves and each other. Best of all, with time and patience, each comes to understand the other: When Sofia occasionally curls or Alfred freezes, each calmly waits it out, knowing “that when they became themselves again, they would see a friend.” Eventually, the duo’s newfound confidence helps them recognize that some neighbors feel anxious, too, and they reach out with empathetic paws. This is a sweet, reassuring story with a plea for understanding and acceptance of differences that will strike a resonant chord with kids. Alfred, in blue overalls, even when hanging from a branch by his prehensile tail, and Sofia, in her red-flowered hat, even curled up, are the endearing stars of the lively, expressive illustrations. Minimal text on pages and ample white space focus attention on protagonists and action in a woodland setting. Backmatter discusses a variety of animal defense mechanisms.

No playing around: Here’s a charming tale that kids will return to again and again. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-78270-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way.

THE PIGEON HAS TO GO TO SCHOOL!

From the Pigeon series

All the typical worries and excuses kids have about school are filtered through Willems’ hysterical, bus-loving Pigeon.

Told mostly in speech balloons, the bird’s monologue will have kids (and their caregivers) in stitches at Pigeon’s excuses. From already knowing everything (except whatever question readers choose to provide in response to “Go ahead—ask me a question. / Any question!”) to fearing learning too much (“My head might pop off”), Pigeon’s imagination has run wild. Readers familiar with Pigeon will recognize the muted, matte backgrounds that show off the bird’s shenanigans so well. As in previous outings, Willems varies the size of the pigeon on the page to help communicate emotion, the bird teeny small on the double-page spread that illustrates the confession that “I’m… / scared.” And Pigeon’s eight-box rant about all the perils of school (“The unknown stresses me out, dude”) is marvelously followed by the realization (complete with lightbulb thought bubble) that school is the place for students to practice, with experts, all those skills they don’t yet have. But it is the ending that is so Willems, so Pigeon, and so perfect. Pigeon’s last question is “Well, HOW am I supposed to get there, anyway!?!” Readers will readily guess both the answer and Pigeon’s reaction.

Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04645-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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