An oft-told tale told poorly.

The puffy gray cat introduced in Naughty Cherie (illustrated by Mark Graham, 2008) learns to share her space and her humans.

Cherie’s family leaves the house, promising to return with a surprise. She hopes it’s tuna treats…but it’s Cleopatra, a kitten. “Her legs were very short and her tail was thin—not at all like Cherie’s big, fluffy tail. She did not have soft, long, gray fur like Cherie but very short, smooth, shiny fur.” Cherie does not like anything about Cleopatra, but young human JoJo and her parents think the little cutie can do no wrong, even when she’s making a mess. Cherie runs away, but after being treated shabbily by several wild animals (most of whom she would eat or be eaten by in reality), she returns home to snuggle, purring, with Cleopatra and JoJo. Award-winning novelist Oates throws down an astonishingly clumsy new-sibling picture book, wordy paragraphs displaying no trust whatsoever in her illustrator to help shoulder the narrative load. Mottram’s mostly realistic, soft-edged, digitally created illustrations are attractive, but his manga-eyed cats only serve to boost the treacle factor. Readers tempted by the title and the author’s reputation will be sorely disappointed—Susin Nielsen and Olivia Chin Mueller’s recent Princess Puffybottom…and Darryl (2019) is ears and tails better than this.

An oft-told tale told poorly. (Picture book. 2-6)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-256392-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019


Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes.

A lift-the-flap book gives the littlest trick-or-treaters some practice identifying partygoers under their costumes.

Little Blue Truck and his buddy Toad are off to a party, and they invite readers (and a black cat) along for the ride: “ ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ / says Little Blue. / ‘It’s Halloween!’ / You come, too.” As they drive, they are surprised (and joined) by many of their friends in costume. “Who’s that in a tutu / striking a pose / up on the tiniest / tips of her toes? / Under the mask / who do you see?” Lifting the flap unmasks a friend: “ ‘Quack!’ says the duck. / ‘It’s me! It’s me!’ ” The sheep is disguised as a clown, the cow’s a queen, the pig’s a witch, the hen and her chick are pirates, and the horse is a dragon. Not to be left out, Little Blue has a costume, too. The flaps are large and sturdy, and enough of the animals’ characteristic features are visible under and around the costumes that little ones will be able to make successful guesses even on the first reading. Lovely curvy shapes and autumn colors fade to dusky blues as night falls, and children are sure to notice the traditional elements of a Halloween party: apple bobbing, lit jack-o’-lanterns, and punch and treats.

Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-77253-3

Page Count: 16

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016


Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable.

You think you know shapes? Animals? Blend them together, and you might see them both a little differently!

What a mischievous twist on a concept book! With wordplay and a few groan-inducing puns, Neal creates connections among animals and shapes that are both unexpected and so seemingly obvious that readers might wonder why they didn’t see them all along. Of course, a “lazy turtle” meeting an oval would create the side-splitting combo of a “SLOW-VAL.” A dramatic page turn transforms a deeply saturated, clean-lined green oval by superimposing a head and turtle shell atop, with watery blue ripples completing the illusion. Minimal backgrounds and sketchy, impressionistic detailing keep the focus right on the zany animals. Beginning with simple shapes, the geometric forms become more complicated as the book advances, taking readers from a “soaring bird” that meets a triangle to become a “FLY-ANGLE” to a “sleepy lion” nonagon “YAWN-AGON.” Its companion text, Animal Colors, delves into color theory, this time creating entirely hybrid animals, such as the “GREEN WHION” with maned head and whale’s tail made from a “blue whale and a yellow lion.” It’s a compelling way to visualize color mixing, and like Animal Shapes, it’s got verve. Who doesn’t want to shout out that a yellow kangaroo/green moose blend is a “CHARTREUSE KANGAMOOSE”?

Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0534-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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