Just plain mean-spirited.

READ REVIEW

CAN SOMEBODY PLEASE SCRATCH MY BACK?

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. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Readers are likely to love it to the moon and back.

WILL YOU BE MY FRIEND?

Little Nutbrown Hare ventures out into the wide world and comes back with a new companion in this sequel to Guess How Much I Love You (1994).

Big Nutbrown Hare is too busy, so after asking permission, Little Nutbrown Hare scampers off over the rolling meadow to play by himself. After discovering that neither his shadow nor his reflection make satisfactory playmates (“You’re only another me!”), Little Nutbrown comes to Cloudy Mountain…and meets “Someone real!” It’s a white bunny who introduces herself as Tipps. But a wonderful round of digging and building and chasing about reaches an unexpected end with a game of hide-and-seek, because both hares hide! After waiting a long time to be found, Little Nutbrown Hare hops on home in disappointment, wondering whether he’ll ever see Tipps again. As it turns out, it doesn’t take long to find out, since she has followed him. “Now, where on earth did she come from?” wonders Big Nutbrown. “Her name is Tipps,” Little Nutbrown proudly replies, “and she’s my friend.” Jeram’s spacious, pale-toned, naturalistic outdoor scenes create a properly idyllic setting for this cozy development in a tender child-caregiver relationship—which hasn’t lost a bit of its appealing intimacy in the more than 25 years since its first appearance. As in the first, Big Nutbrown Hare is ungendered, facilitating pleasingly flexible readings.

Readers are likely to love it to the moon and back. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1747-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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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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