Murphy’s lovable little monster, Marlon (The Last Noo-Noo, 1995) returns in a heartfelt and ultimately triumphant tale about being excluded. Weary of playing alone, Marlon eagerly approaches the neighborhood children to join their games. However, while the trio may have such hilarious names such as Alligantina and Boomps-a-Daisy, their actions are not so amusing. Each time Marlon attempts to participate, the children abruptly change the venue, moving from Musketeers to Pirates to gymnastics in rapid succession. After several episodes of being deliberately left out of the play, Marlon hits upon the very idea to soothe his wounded self-esteem. Murphy’s shrewd tale illuminates a grievous yet common childhood dilemma and the elemental truth that is at the heart of this matter. Marlon’s determination to make his own fun has wondrous results; soon the trio is longingly watching Marlon frolic in his backyard “ocean” and eager to participate in his play. The crisp lines and vibrant tones of Murphy’s pen and colored-pencil illustrations make a vivid impact. Her detailed, imaginative drawings of the monsters add a comical flair to the tale, balancing out the poignancy and of the situation. Astutely conveying a vital life lesson with aplomb while avoiding any treacly sentimentalism, this is definitely to be shared with any child navigating the rocky waters of peer relations. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-7636-0785-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2002


Charming and thought-provoking proof that we all contain multitudes.

Oscar winner McConaughey offers intriguing life observations.

The series of pithy, wry comments, each starting with the phrase “Just because,” makes clear that each of us is a mass of contradictions: “Just because we’re friends, / doesn’t mean you can’t burn me. / Just because I’m stubborn, / doesn’t mean that you can’t turn me.” Witty, digitally rendered vignettes portray youngsters diverse in terms of race and ability (occasionally with pets looking on) dealing with everything from friendship drama to a nerve-wracking footrace. “Just because I’m dirty, / doesn’t mean I can’t get clean” is paired with an image of a youngster taking a bath while another character (possibly an older sibling) sits nearby, smiling. “Just because you’re nice, / doesn’t mean you can’t get mean” depicts the older one berating the younger one for tracking mud into the house. The artwork effectively brings to life the succinct, rhyming text and will help readers make sense of it. Perhaps, after studying the illustrations and gaining further insight into the comments, kids will reread and reflect upon them further. The final page unites the characters from earlier pages with a reassuring message for readers: “Just because the sun has set, / doesn’t mean it will not rise. / Because every day is a gift, / each one a new surprise. BELIEVE IT.” As a follow-up, readers should be encouraged to make their own suggestions to complete the titular phrase. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Charming and thought-provoking proof that we all contain multitudes. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9780593622032

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023


From the Otis series

Continuing to find inspiration in the work of Virginia Lee Burton, Munro Leaf and other illustrators of the past, Long (The Little Engine That Could, 2005) offers an aw-shucks friendship tale that features a small but hardworking tractor (“putt puff puttedy chuff”) with a Little Toot–style face and a big-eared young descendant of Ferdinand the bull who gets stuck in deep, gooey mud. After the big new yellow tractor, crowds of overalls-clad locals and a red fire engine all fail to pull her out, the little tractor (who had been left behind the barn to rust after the arrival of the new tractor) comes putt-puff-puttedy-chuff-ing down the hill to entice his terrified bovine buddy successfully back to dry ground. Short on internal logic but long on creamy scenes of calf and tractor either gamboling energetically with a gaggle of McCloskey-like geese through neutral-toned fields or resting peacefully in the shade of a gnarled tree (apple, not cork), the episode will certainly draw nostalgic adults. Considering the author’s track record and influences, it may find a welcome from younger audiences too. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-399-25248-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2009

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