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While it’s a playful and useful offering, readers will wish it were a bit bigger and higher contrast.

A pack of playful dogs cavorts through the pages as little ones and their grown-ups are encouraged to engage through gentle prompts.

Panels of bold blocks of color zero in on a variety of dogs, sometimes as many as three in one 5 ½–inch-square page. When the text is not describing each canine (“BIG dog. / Little DOG”), it is encouraging youngsters to fill in blanks (“____ dog” next to a picture of a hot dog in its bun) or repeat back words and simple phrases (“Let’s say YELLOW, FURRY dog!”). On the back cover, the author, a pediatrician, states that the rationale for these prompts is to promote brain growth, build vocabulary, and encourage early literacy skills in young children as well as to bring grown-ups and children together. Parents new to reading with toddlers may need a little more guidance than Hutton provides, but his approach is novel and engaging. Cenko’s richly colored paintings, in what looks to be acrylics, are winsome, imbuing each pup with a distinct personality. However, some of the panels are too small and others are too dark. A dark-brown dachshund is lost against a dark-purple background, a dark-blue sky makes the beach scene look moonlit, and it is difficult to figure out what a cone-wearing dog is up to due to the lack of contrast and the size of the panel.

While it’s a playful and useful offering, readers will wish it were a bit bigger and higher contrast. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-936669-54-7

Page Count: 14

Publisher: blue manatee press

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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A riff on the familiar lullaby depicts various animal parents, and then a human father, soothing their sleepy little ones.

An opening spread includes the traditional first verse of the titular lullaby, but instead of depicting a human baby in a treetop cradle, the accompanying illustration shows a large tree as habitat to the animals that are highlighted on subsequent pages. First the perspective zooms in on a painterly illustration rendered in acrylics of a mother squirrel cuddling her baby with text reading “Rock-a-bye Squirrel, / high in the tree, / in Mommy’s arms, / cozy as can be.” In this spread and others the cadence doesn’t quite fit with the familiar tune, and repeated verses featuring different animals—all opening with the “Rock-a-bye” line—don’t give way to the resolution. No winds blow, no boughs break, and the repetitive forced rhythm of the verse could cause stumbles when attempting a read-aloud. The final image of a human father and baby, whose skin tone and hair texture suggest that they are perhaps of South Asian descent, provides pleasing visual resolution in a book with art that outshines text.

Ho-hum. (Picture book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3753-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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Handsome but so sneaky as to be frustrating.

Youngsters are invited to find the object or creature that doesn’t fit in with a similar grouping of animals.

In arrays spread out on (mostly) double-page spreads, a rocking horse hides among a drove of real horses, a cat sits with a variety of breeds of dogs, and so on. The project is wordless except for the introductory text that introduces the game with echoes of Sesame Street: “One of these things is almost like the others….” Some of the groupings are quite clever: a straight belt is placed amid a row of curvy snakes, a mechanical crane is perched between a living crane and two other long-legged birds, and the sole human figure, who looks to be a shirtless white male, is the only being to walk on two legs in a primate troop. To assist guessers, the final double-page spread shows all the outliers from the subsequent groupings. Using only yellow, purple, and a deep and dusky brown that is created when these two shades are mixed, Contraire uses stencils to create his figures against a creamy white background. While many of the animals and objects are instantly recognizable, the contrast of the mostly yellow critters against white backgrounds makes identification tricky for the board-book set. And while the book design is handsome, the lack of color variation in the art gives the offering a one-note feel.

Handsome but so sneaky as to be frustrating. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: May 22, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7148-7422-7

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Phaidon

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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