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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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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A winning tale about finding new friends.

FOUND

Bear finds a wonderful toy.

Bear clearly loves the toy bunny that he has found sitting up against a tree in the forest, but he wants to help it return to its home. With a wagon full of fliers and the bunny secure in Bear’s backpack, he festoons the trees with posters and checks out a bulletin board filled with lost and found objects (some of which will bring a chuckle to adult readers). Alas, he returns home still worried about bunny. The following day, they happily play together and ride Bear’s tricycle. Into the cozy little picture steps Moose, who immediately recognizes his bunny, named Floppy. Bear has a tear in his eye as he watches Moose and Floppy hug. But Moose, wearing a tie, is clearly grown and knows that it is time to share and that Bear will take very good care of his Floppy. Yoon’s story is sweet without being sentimental. She uses digitized artwork in saturated colors to create a lovely little world for her animals. They are outlined in strong black lines and stand out against the yellows, blues, greens and oranges of the background. She also uses space to great effect, allowing readers to feel the emotional tug of the story.

A winning tale about finding new friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8027-3559-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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