Sweetness with no substance



Wan takes her rhyming formula, previously applied to pumpkins, cupcakes, and more, and uses a unicorn as a vehicle for her newest outing in esteem-building.

“You are magical, my little one. / Reach for the stars, the moon, the sun.” In each image, a rotund white unicorn with flowing, rainbow-colored mane and tail, stubby yellow horn, and yellow stars on its rump poses fetchingly, gallops adorably, or leaps cunningly. It repels angry thunder clouds as it trots along a rainbow and emits stars as it’s exhorted to “sparkle and dazzle” in front of a small throng of admiring woodland animals. The artist’s signature thick, black outlines and smiley faces (except for the frowning thunder clouds) give the book a solidly cheerful feel that is reinforced by the pastel palette. Landing as it does in an environment in which an emphasis on resilience is superseding rank cheerleading in early-childhood instruction and in which empathy must be cultivated, it feels only half-baked. It’s all well and good to tell babies to “let your wondrous light shine through. / Baby, I believe in you!” But with no modeling of how to overcome adversity beyond the instruction not to “let fear stand in your way” nor even any sense that other creatures may be equally deserving of attention, it feels like the cotton candy it resembles.

Sweetness with no substance . (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-338-33410-4

Page Count: 14

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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If the point is to help children understand and accept their feelings, this effort is a failure. If the point is to sell...


From the Pout-Pout Fish series

The Pout-Pout Fish brand expands.

None of the fish in this sea look like anything living outside the cartoon-cute world of Pout-Pout Fish, but that's just the beginning of the problems with this board-book addition to the franchise. The Pout-Pout Fish on the cover and every page of this offering doesn't look pouty at all. Slightly bemused, a bit surprised, maybe—but definitely not pouty. In fact, all of the cartoony creatures swimming in this fantasy sea share the same bug-eyed, slightly kissy-face expression. The rhyming message is that there are many ways to share it—a wave, a smile, holding hands (or fins), making silly faces, a hug, or a kiss—but there’s only one thing to call it: love. What is disturbing is that Mr. Fish seems to have only one choice—to accept love however it is offered. Giving children (or little fish) permission to trust their own feelings might be a more appropriate message.

If the point is to help children understand and accept their feelings, this effort is a failure. If the point is to sell Pout-Pout product, it might succeed. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-374-30190-3

Page Count: 14

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Sweet—but more for adults than children.


A doting pair of adult bears follows a baby bear through a busy day.

These fully engaged caregivers are clearly awed by the little cub, starting with “You’re the morning sunshine” and ending with “you sleep so peacefully / beneath the twinkling stars.” In between, the baby bear paints a picture, sings with one adult, tickles with the other, drinks cocoa, takes a walk and flies a kite, rides a bike, and is playfully swung in the air before a bath. Much of the action is communicated only by the pictures. The tender rhyming verses focus on the wonder of familial love. Every other stanza ends with the refrain: “This world of ours is full of love / when you are here with me.” Curiously, although this cub has two present, caregiving adults, the narrative, presumably addressed to the child, uses the first-person singular. The baby bear is presented as gender-neutral, first in orange-and-green polka-dot pajamas and then in blue jeans with a white shirt graced with yellow ducks. Although neither adult bear is gendered in the text, the illustrations use stereotypical cues: One wears a yellow dress decorated with hearts; the other wears a striped shirt (and no trousers). No one can miss that the baby bear is the adults’ little darling.

Sweet—but more for adults than children. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Dec. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68010-603-9

Page Count: 22

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: Dec. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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