Despite the missteps, parents and teachers looking to insert a message of diversity into a color lesson could do worse.

READ REVIEW

NOT QUITE BLACK AND WHITE

Animation sensibilities are reflected in the quirky silliness this brother and sister team (he a game designer, she a former Disney artist) brings to their first original picture book.

Eleven anthropomorphic animals drawn in bold black lines against clean white backgrounds each wear a spot of color: a zebra in a pink–polka dot dress, a Dalmatian in a red cape, skunks in blue swim trunks. One drum-playing kitty even sports an aqua mohawk. Each color/animal appears on a spacious double-page spread in which lead initials of the rhyming couplet that forms the text and each color word are printed in the featured color. The rhymes read smoothly for the most part and provide hints for beginning readers. The colors chosen are not the standard crayon-box eight, and unfortunately they are not all pure colors. The vest on the traffic-directing horse is on the dull-brown side of orange, and the maroon flag planted on the moon by a proud badger is more brown than red mixed with purple, making it less than “striking.” The final message brings all the animals together for two final double-page spreads; while not preachy, it is not at all subtle: “From the darkest of dark to the brightest of bright, / we're each pretty special, not quite BLACK and WHITE.”

Despite the missteps, parents and teachers looking to insert a message of diversity into a color lesson could do worse. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-238066-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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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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Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug.

THE HUG

What to do when you’re a prickly animal hankering for a hug? Why, find another misfit animal also searching for an embrace!

Sweet but “tricky to hug” little Hedgehog is down in the dumps. Wandering the forest, Hedgehog begs different animals for hugs, but each rejects them. Readers will giggle at their panicked excuses—an evasive squirrel must suddenly count its three measly acorns; a magpie begins a drawn-out song—but will also be indignant on poor hedgehog’s behalf. Hedgehog has the appealingly pink-cheeked softness typical of Dunbar’s art, and the gentle watercolors are nonthreatening, though she also captures the animals’ genuine concern about being poked. A wise owl counsels the dejected hedgehog that while the prickles may frighten some, “there’s someone for everyone.” That’s when Hedgehog spots a similarly lonely tortoise, rejected due to its “very hard” shell but perfectly matched for a spiky new friend. They race toward each other until the glorious meeting, marked with swoony peach swirls and overjoyed grins. At this point, readers flip the book to hear the same gloomy tale from the tortoise’s perspective until it again culminates in that joyous hug, a book turn that’s made a pleasure with thick creamy paper and solid binding.

Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-571-34875-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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