While the schtick may be getting a little old for everyday readers, clever teachers could turn this into a creative...



Mrs. Millie’s silliness with mixed-up words continues as her students plan a few birthday surprises, and this time, it is not just Mrs. Millie who gets her words wrong (Don't Be Silly, Mrs. Millie!, 2005, etc.).

The kids begin it by having their parents help them “decorate the classroom with colorful baboons. / Oh! We mean balloons.” They lay out treats, knowing that Mrs. Millie will call them “cubcakes” when she sees them, and lay in a good supply of “apple moose” to drink. Then it’s time for the party. They surprise Mrs. Millie and go through all the normal birthday rituals—presents, cake, blowing out the candle, making a wish and playing games. Every spread save one features some sort of word mix-up, whether based on rhymes (moose and juice) or just words that sound similar (camel and candle). Cox’s text leans heavily on Mathieu’s brightly colored pencil-and-watercolor illustrations for humor, and he definitely delivers. The zany mash-ups he creates are sure to elicit giggles in readers, though they may not last through repeated readings once they get over the novelty. His cast of characters includes a mix of skin colors, though it would have been nice if their facial expressions were just as varied.

While the schtick may be getting a little old for everyday readers, clever teachers could turn this into a creative writing/art lesson that works for multiple grade levels. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7614-6126-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish

Review Posted Online: Feb. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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An interactive book works to get its titular message across to readers.

The narrator, an anthropomorphic cartoon heart with big eyes and stick arms and legs, is nothing if not exuberant in its attempts, clumsy and cloying as they may be. “I love you so much, / but there’s more in my heart. / How is that possible? / Well, where do I start? // Now move in close, and you will see / just how much you mean to me. // My love is huge—below, above. / As you can tell, there’s always more love!” The page following the instruction to move in shows a close-up of the top of the heart and its eyes, one stick arm pointing skyward, though despite the admonition “you can tell,” readers will glean nothing about love from this picture. À la Hervé Tullet, the book prompts readers to act, but the instructions can sometimes be confusing (see above) and are largely irrelevant to the following spread, supposedly triggered by the suggested actions. The heart, suddenly supplied with a painter’s palette and a beret and surrounded by blobs of color, instructs readers to “Shake the book to see what I can be.” The page turn reveals hearts of all different colors, one rainbow-striped, and then different shapes. Most troublingly, the heart, who is clearly meant to be a stand-in for loved ones, states, “I’m always here for you,” which for too many children is heartbreakingly not true.

Skip. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-1376-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Beautiful to behold but uneven to read.


O (little) Christmas tree!

Though it’s not as scraggly as the tree Charlie Brown selects in the television special, the little fir tree who narrates this story isn’t like the others in the forest. A scene in springtime reads, “While other trees grew poised and tall, / I lagged behind. / Looking different. / Feeling small.” When humans come to cut down trees to decorate for Christmas, the little fir tree isn’t chosen. It stands, lonesome, surrounded by the stumps of the other fir trees, with bare-branched deciduous trees in the background. In a happy turn, woodland animals hear the tree’s cries and bring “berries, feathers, / nuts, and flowers” to decorate it right where it stands. It’s a joyful, peaceable kingdom of a scene, enlivened with a bit of whimsy when the tree says that “a shooting star dropped down // [and] sank into my branches and shone so pure, / so bright, that I became a tree of light.” Here and throughout, Zommer’s gentle, warm illustrations outshine the text, which falters in its cadence and rhyme. Closing spreads show the tree growing taller, if still a bit crooked and spindly, with birds and forest animals around it. The final spread depicts a child of color and a white child reading books at its base, affirming the act of reading that brought real children to this closing page.

Beautiful to behold but uneven to read. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-11967-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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