A gentle reminder that runners-up are important, too.

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OLIVER

THE SECOND-LARGEST LIVING THING ON EARTH

Oliver, a giant sequoia tree, works hard but unsuccessfully to become the largest living thing on Earth, until he realizes that he is part of something even larger.

Crute and Kim, debut creators, find a standout way to impart an important life lesson about winning and losing. Using as a springboard the facts that a giant sequoia named Gen. Sherman is identified by Sequoia National Park as the largest living tree in the world, by volume, and there are other tall and named trees in Sequoia National Forest, they offer a gentle fantasy in which the second-largest tree, whom they call Oliver, eats well and lifts weight in an effort to grow taller and stronger and thus earn a sign like Sherman’s, but it remains in second place. He looks sadly around and sees his impressive, only slightly shorter, neighbors and realizes that they are all part of “something larger”: a forest (that also has a sign). Clean design extends to sans-serif font and digital illustrations often set on white or pale green space. Only the named trees have detail—arms, expressive faces, and bushy green leaves for hair and beards. The faces of human admirers have varying skin tones. A final page offers other examples of “second-largest things on Earth”—a national park, a country, a state, a mountain, an ocean, and a whale species—and identifies the actual “largest living thing on earth” as a fungus in Oregon.

A gentle reminder that runners-up are important, too. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62414-577-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Page Street

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life.

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BE YOU!

An inspirational picture book offers life advice for readers who want to be themselves.

Replete with sparkling, often quirky illustrations of children living their best lives, this book is a gorgeous guidebook for those seeking encouragement while encountering life’s challenges. The children featured—a racially diverse group ranging from infants to preschoolers—cheerfully navigate the various injunctions that flow through the text: “Be curious.…Be adventurous.…Be persistent.…Be kind.” What is remarkable about the book is that even though the instructions and the brief sentences explaining them are at times vague, the illustrations expand on them in ways readers will find endearing and uplifting. Those depicting painful or challenging moments are especially effective. The “Be persistent” double-page spread shows a child in a boat on stormy seas; it’s rich with deep blues as it emphasizes the energy of wind and rain and struggle in the face of challenge. Together with the accompanying repeated phrase “Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop,” this spread arrests readers. By contrast, the “Be kind. Be understanding” spread simply presents two children’s faces, one cast in blue and the other in gold, but the empathy that Reynolds conveys is similarly captivating. While there is no plot to pull readers through the pages, the book provides rich fodder for caregivers to use as teachable moments, both informally and in classroom settings.

Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-57231-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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