“Big Brown, Big Brown!” she wails, in a shrill pitch familiar to all parents. Small Blue’s caregiver, a lumpy, burly bear,...

SMALL BLUE AND THE DEEP DARK NIGHT

Small Blue (a little bunny) gets a bad case of the middle-of-the-night willies, imagining what spooky creatures might lurk in the dark corners of her home.

“Big Brown, Big Brown!” she wails, in a shrill pitch familiar to all parents. Small Blue’s caregiver, a lumpy, burly bear, offers reassuringly ridiculous counterarguments to assuage the bunny’s fears. Big Brown wonders whether those “[g]remlins and goblins, with empty, rumbling bellies,” weren’t there at all, and instead there was ”a delightful doggies’ Saturday-night unicycle convention” underway. It is dark, after all. Who can tell? Children will get the hang of Big Brown’s loopy logic quickly. The dark could harbor “giant hairy spiders and flappy bats” or, just as likely, host “a smiley spacemen’s zero-gravity birthday party.” Jittery readers come to see it’s probably neither; the dark is just that, dark, and nothing more. Big Brown’s enveloping brawn and fantastically implausible nighttime scenarios turn quivering fears into giggles. Mildly cartoonish artwork, in purply-blues (lights off) and cozy yellows (lights on), offers thick linework and lots of rounded edges, eyes, noses and mouths, softening Blue’s scary fantasies and rendering Brown’s imaginings all the more comical.  Add this original, illuminating book to any stack of in-the-dark, nighty-night anxiety tales right next to the bed, alongside that last glass of water—but leave the door open a crack! (Picture book. 2-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-16466-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S HALLOWEEN

A lift-the-flap book gives the littlest trick-or-treaters some practice identifying partygoers under their costumes.

Little Blue Truck and his buddy Toad are off to a party, and they invite readers (and a black cat) along for the ride: “ ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ / says Little Blue. / ‘It’s Halloween!’ / You come, too.” As they drive, they are surprised (and joined) by many of their friends in costume. “Who’s that in a tutu / striking a pose / up on the tiniest / tips of her toes? / Under the mask / who do you see?” Lifting the flap unmasks a friend: “ ‘Quack!’ says the duck. / ‘It’s me! It’s me!’ ” The sheep is disguised as a clown, the cow’s a queen, the pig’s a witch, the hen and her chick are pirates, and the horse is a dragon. Not to be left out, Little Blue has a costume, too. The flaps are large and sturdy, and enough of the animals’ characteristic features are visible under and around the costumes that little ones will be able to make successful guesses even on the first reading. Lovely curvy shapes and autumn colors fade to dusky blues as night falls, and children are sure to notice the traditional elements of a Halloween party: apple bobbing, lit jack-o’-lanterns, and punch and treats.

Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-77253-3

Page Count: 16

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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