To wash away a stubborn case of the grumps, skip this and pick up Claire Messer’s Grumpy Pants (2016) instead.


A disgruntled duck brings a dark cloud upon her friends.

Duck is grumpy, the pond is dry, and there’s nobody to play with. A little gray cloud forms above her head, matching her mood. Though friends suggest activities to smooth her ruffled feathers, she rudely turns up her bill at digging holes with Dog or munching laundry with Goat, and she “just [doesn’t] do cockadoodling.” With each snub and each animal’s retort (including Pig’s out-of-place “honked” oink), Duck’s cloud swells until it’s “BLACK” and “GINORMOUS” and everybody’s grumpy, demonstrating the cumulative effect of taking anger out on others. Just as it threatens to blot out the sun forever, it bursts with a “SPLATT PLITTER PLATT” into “MILLIONS OF BIG SHINY WET SPLASHY RAINDROPS,” conveniently remedying Duck’s initial complaint. The animals burst into a waddling, barking, cockadoodling rendition of “Singin’ in the Rain,” and Duck exits under a double-page rainbow, her rudeness apparently forgotten. The author’s storm metaphor is simultaneously clichéd and unclear. Though the exuberant downpour may symbolize that “GLOOM cloud[s]” pass, its literal gratification of Duck’s griping may imply that bad moods are good reasons to be unkind—a message caregivers won’t appreciate. Horácek’s bold, textured mixed-media illustrations pop, but his animated critters can’t save the text’s muddled moral.

To wash away a stubborn case of the grumps, skip this and pick up Claire Messer’s Grumpy Pants (2016) instead. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0424-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Just the thing to get uncertain youngsters jazzed for a first day—at school or anywhere.


Barnes and Brantley-Newton team up for a follow-up to The King of Kindergarten (2019).

From the very first page, it’s clear that young MJ Malone is ready to face the world—and school. Once Mom bestows her with a glittery tiara and dubs her the queen of kindergarten, MJ is determined to fulfill her duties—brighten up every room she enters, treat others with kindness, and offer a helping hand. Barnes infuses each page with humor and a sense of grace as the immensely likable MJ makes the most of her first day. Barnes’ prose is entertaining and heartwarming, while Brantley-Newton’s vivid and playful artwork will be easily recognizable for anyone who’s seen her work (Grandma’s Purse, 2018; Becoming Vanessa, 2021). The illustrator adds verve to the bold young heroine’s character—from the colorful barrettes to the textured appearance of her adorable denim jumper, the girl has style and substance. MJ Malone embodies the can-do spirit every parent hopes to spark in their own children, though even shy kindergarteners will gladly find a friend in her. MJ and her family are Black; her classroom is diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Just the thing to get uncertain youngsters jazzed for a first day—at school or anywhere. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: May 24, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-11142-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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Echoes of Runaway Bunny color this exchange between a bath-averse piglet and his patient mother. Using a strategy that would probably be a nonstarter in real life, the mother deflects her stubborn offspring’s string of bath-free occupational conceits with appeals to reason: “Pirates NEVER EVER take baths!” “Pirates don’t get seasick either. But you do.” “Yeesh. I’m an astronaut, okay?” “Well, it is hard to bathe in zero gravity. It’s hard to poop and pee in zero gravity too!” And so on, until Mom’s enticing promise of treasure in the deep sea persuades her little Treasure Hunter to take a dive. Chunky figures surrounded by lots of bright white space in Segal’s minimally detailed watercolors keep the visuals as simple as the plotline. The language isn’t quite as basic, though, and as it rendered entirely in dialogue—Mother Pig’s lines are italicized—adult readers will have to work hard at their vocal characterizations for it to make any sense. Moreover, younger audiences (any audiences, come to that) may wonder what the piggy’s watery closing “EUREKA!!!” is all about too. Not particularly persuasive, but this might coax a few young porkers to get their trotters into the tub. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25425-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2011

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