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Just plain mean-spirited.

An elephant with a terrible itch on its back seeks help from fellow animals, but when relief is finally achieved, gratitude is the last thing on its mind.

Scratching an itch that can’t be reached is frustrating. Enlisting the right help is even more annoying for this obnoxious pachyderm. Mr. Crocodile is more than willing, but his sharp teeth (and grin) dissuade the elephant. Mr. Snail only creates a slimy feeling down Elephant’s back. As the itch grows worse, the elephant becomes increasingly upset and even rude to several more creatures willing to try, leaving the itchy beast in tears and somewhat despondent. “Oh, I have an itch on my back and it will never be scratched. I just don’t know what to do.” Then a sympathetic hedgehog appears: “Perhaps I can help. I’m quite pokey.” Scooping the hedgehog up with its trunk and placing the spiny critter in just the right spot brings the desired relief. But the boorish elephant then forcefully flings the little guy into the air—“Off you go!”—selfishly proclaiming, “Finally! Somebody who was actually helpful!” The poor helpless hedgehog is now stuck upside down with an itch of its own and, in a reprise of an earlier joke, must wait for Mr. Sloth to slowly make his way over. While taken separately each individual encounter is quite funny, the intended amusement in the dialogue-driven story is marred by the elephant’s concluding, churlish behavior, rendering the endearingly cute, delicately outlined cartoon illustrations inapt.

Just plain mean-spirited. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2854-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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From the Big Bright Feelings series

A heartwarming story about facing fears and acceptance.

A boy with wings learns to be himself and inspires others like him to soar, too.

Norman, a “perfectly normal” boy, never dreamed he might grow wings. Afraid of what his parents might say, he hides his new wings under a big, stuffy coat. Although the coat hides his wings from the world, Norman no longer finds joy in bathtime, playing at the park, swimming, or birthday parties. With the gentle encouragement of his parents, who see his sadness, Norman finds the courage to come out of hiding and soar. Percival (The Magic Looking Glass, 2017, etc.) depicts Norman with light skin and dark hair. Black-and-white illustrations show his father with dark skin and hair and his mother as white. The contrast of black-and-white illustrations with splashes of bright color complements the story’s theme. While Norman tries to be “normal,” the world and people around him look black and gray, but his coat stands out in yellow. Birds pop from the page in pink, green, and blue, emphasizing the joy and beauty of flying free. The final spread, full of bright color and multiracial children in flight, sets the mood for Norman’s realization on the last page that there is “no such thing as perfectly normal,” but he can be “perfectly Norman.”

A heartwarming story about facing fears and acceptance. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68119-785-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for...

Oliver, of first-day-of-school alligator fame, is back, imagining adventures and still struggling to find balance between introversion and extroversion.

“When Oliver found his egg…” on the playground, mint-green backgrounds signifying Oliver’s flight into fancy slowly grow larger until they take up entire spreads; Oliver’s creature, white and dinosaurlike with orange polka dots, grows larger with them. Their adventures include sharing treats, sailing the seas and going into outer space. A classmate’s yell brings him back to reality, where readers see him sitting on top of a rock. Even considering Schmid’s scribbly style, readers can almost see the wheels turning in his head as he ponders the girl and whether or not to give up his solitary play. “But when Oliver found his rock… // Oliver imagined many adventures // with all his friends!” This last is on a double gatefold that opens to show the children enjoying the creature’s slippery curves. A final wordless spread depicts all the children sitting on rocks, expressions gleeful, wondering, waiting, hopeful. The illustrations, done in pastel pencil and digital color, again make masterful use of white space and page turns, although this tale is not nearly as funny or tongue-in-cheek as Oliver and His Alligator (2013), nor is its message as clear and immediately accessible to children.

Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for all children but sadly isn’t. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7573-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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