A well-meaning but just so-so friendship story.

READ REVIEW

BRAVE ENOUGH FOR TWO

A girl overcomes fears and helps her favorite friend.

Olive has a BFF—Hoot, a large, chubby toy owl. Olive likes her excitement in books, while Hoot’s eager for genuine adventures. When Hoot tells Olive he’s prepared a surprise for her that “could be a small bit scary,” she’s wary, declaring that she isn’t as brave as he. A balloon-powered flight higher than Olive appreciates ensues, as does a speedy boat ride. Through both exploits, Hoot reminds scared Olive he’ll keep her safe. Then Hoot discovers his bottom’s torn; he’s lost stuffing. Olive now declares she’ll “be brave enough for both of us.” Leading them both safely home, she repairs the rip. While sweet, this friendship story may confuse readers. Is Olive imagining the adventures, with Hoot the stand-in for her courage, or have the thrilling feats been propelled by the toy’s own agency? Kids may not mind, but some adults might frown that a girl repeatedly protests fearfulness while a male demonstrates daring ingenuity. Finally, what’s brave about walking home and sewing (another stereotyped female activity)? The artwork (rendered in watercolors, pen, and ink, and with colors added digitally) fares better, the illustrations displaying colorful, sweeping spreads and commanding aerial perspectives; occasionally, more-intimate black-line sketches appear in margins with text. Olive has pale skin, ruddy cheeks, button eyes, and wind-blown brown locks.

A well-meaning but just so-so friendship story. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-12748-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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

HEY, DUCK!

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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Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations.

I BELIEVE I CAN

Diversity is the face of this picture book designed to inspire confidence in children.

Fans of Byers and Bobo’s I Am Enough (2018) will enjoy this book that comes with a universal message of self-acceptance. A line of children practices ballet at the barre; refreshingly, two of the four are visibly (and adorably) pudgy. Another group tends a couple of raised beds; one of them wears hijab. Two more children coax a trepidatious friend down a steep slide. Further images, of children pretending to be pirates, dragons, mimes, playing superhero and soccer, and cooking, are equally endearing, but unfortunately they don’t add enough heft to set the book apart from other empowerment books for children. Though the illustrations shine, the text remains pedagogic and bland. Clichés abound: “When I believe in myself, there’s simply nothing I can’t do”; “Sometimes I am right, and sometimes I am wrong. / But even when I make mistakes, I learn from them to make me strong.” The inclusion of children with varying abilities, religions, genders, body types, and racial presentations creates an inviting tone that makes the book palatable. It’s hard to argue with the titular sentiment, but this is not the only book of its ilk on the shelf.

Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266713-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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