Encouraging and judgement-free.


From the Once Upon a Garden series

A budding artist searches for his strength.

Doug the brown dung beetle appreciates nature. The other dung beetles say he needs to be “strong” and have “power.” They take turns lifting a brown dumbbell. When Doug tries, he can’t lift it, and the others tease him. Belinda the butterfly encourages Doug, reassuring him that he’s “strong in another way.” Petals floating on the breeze give Doug an idea. He covers a large ball of dung in an intricate petal mosaic. For another work of dung art, he uses a heap of bright yellow pollen. He continues to make unique art out of the brown spheres, building a little gallery to display his work. At first, he’s still met with jeers, but he stays “determined” to do this thing that makes him happy. Eventually, the whole garden comes to appreciate his art, and the other dung beetles even make a sculpture to celebrate Doug and ask for lessons on creativity. The text avoids any crass poop jokes, not even defining “dung.” Key message words (“determination,” “resilience,” etc.) appear repeatedly in boldface within the modest text, making the moral clear. The minimalist art gets its job done effectively. Predominant visual symmetry from page to page (the characters always face forward) makes for easy sight recognition for young readers. The large-eyed insects composed of simple shapes appear friendly while the earth-toned dung beetles cheerfully complement the brights of the garden—and thus Doug’s art as well.

Encouraging and judgement-free. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4338-3237-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Magination/American Psychological Association

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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


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


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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