A very good “good night.” (Picture book. 2-5)

PICNIC

A picture-book master presents an engaging feast of a bedtime book.

Just as Boy and Girl pack their picnic basket with everything they’ll need for a perfect luncheon, Burningham packs every part of his book’s design with details that contribute to its success. The front cover art introduces the protagonists, while the back depicts the anthropomorphic animal friends—Duck, Pig and Sheep—who join them. Open the book, and the bull that frightens them away from their first picnic site is charging forward on the front flap. Meanwhile, endpapers depict the many characters, places and props that appear in ensuing pages. This provides an “I spy” element to the design, reinforced by later pictures in which the characters lose various items and the text directly asks readers to find them hidden in the pictures. When the group finally does find “a good place to have their picnic,” Burningham treats readers to a wordless double-page spread with generous white space at the top and a verdant, speckled ground on which the friends share their meal. After playtime, they head home to go to bed, and the text asks the reader, “Who is sleeping in which bed?” This leads to a final page that pulls no punches in its playful, direct statement: “Shall we see if we can find your bed?”

A very good “good night.” (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: May 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6945-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable.

ANIMAL SHAPES

You think you know shapes? Animals? Blend them together, and you might see them both a little differently!

What a mischievous twist on a concept book! With wordplay and a few groan-inducing puns, Neal creates connections among animals and shapes that are both unexpected and so seemingly obvious that readers might wonder why they didn’t see them all along. Of course, a “lazy turtle” meeting an oval would create the side-splitting combo of a “SLOW-VAL.” A dramatic page turn transforms a deeply saturated, clean-lined green oval by superimposing a head and turtle shell atop, with watery blue ripples completing the illusion. Minimal backgrounds and sketchy, impressionistic detailing keep the focus right on the zany animals. Beginning with simple shapes, the geometric forms become more complicated as the book advances, taking readers from a “soaring bird” that meets a triangle to become a “FLY-ANGLE” to a “sleepy lion” nonagon “YAWN-AGON.” Its companion text, Animal Colors, delves into color theory, this time creating entirely hybrid animals, such as the “GREEN WHION” with maned head and whale’s tail made from a “blue whale and a yellow lion.” It’s a compelling way to visualize color mixing, and like Animal Shapes, it’s got verve. Who doesn’t want to shout out that a yellow kangaroo/green moose blend is a “CHARTREUSE KANGAMOOSE”?

Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0534-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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