Time together is truly wonderful for one father and son. (Picture book. 3-6)

THE BETTER TREE FORT

Do-it-yourself dads rock, especially in the backyard.

When Russell sees the enormous maple tree in his new backyard, he immediately thinks tree fort and draws up the plans for the structure and all its important attachments. His dad is a very willing accomplice to the project, although he’s not at all sure of what to do and how to do it. After a good deal of work, the tree fort is completed. It is not anywhere near what Russell had planned, but in his eyes “It’s perfect” (even without the escape slide). Father and son (both white) spend a wonderful night together in it. The next morning brings consternation to Russell when he sees a tree fort being erected in a neighbor’s backyard—a very big and very fancy endeavor. It has turrets. And electricity. And an escape slide. Russell joins the boy of color to whom it belongs for a snack and learns that his father hired a construction crew. But does it have everything a better tree fort should have? Russell goes home to be with his father, who may not be the best builder but is clearly the “better dad.” Kerrin’s story of father-son love is endearing and warm-spirited. Leng’s ink, watercolor, and pencil-crayon illustrations are softly hued, fluid, and filled with enough details to engage readers.

Time together is truly wonderful for one father and son. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-55498-863-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Dec. 11, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

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 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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