THE GRUFFALO

The action of this rhymed and humorous tale centers upon a mouse who "took a stroll/through the deep dark wood./A fox saw the mouse/and the mouse looked good." The mouse escapes being eaten by telling the fox that he is on his way to meet his friend the gruffalo (a monster of his imagination), whose favorite food is roasted fox. The fox beats a hasty retreat. Similar escapes are in store for an owl and a snake; both hightail it when they learn the particulars: tusks, claws, terrible jaws, eyes orange, tongue black, purple prickles on its back. When the gruffalo suddenly materializes out of the mouse's head and into the forest, the mouse has to think quick, declaring himself inedible as the "scariest creature in the deep dark wood," and inviting the gruffalo to follow him to witness the effect he has on the other creatures. When the gruffalo hears that the mouse's favorite food is gruffalo crumble, he runs away. It's a fairly innocuous tale, with twists that aren't sharp enough and treachery that has no punch. Scheffler's funny scenes prevent the suspense from culminating; all his creatures, predator and prey, are downright lovable. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: June 1, 1999

ISBN: 0-8037-2386-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 1999

CINDERELLA

From the Once Upon a World series

A nice but not requisite purchase.

A retelling of the classic fairy tale in board-book format and with a Mexican setting.

Though simplified for a younger audience, the text still relates the well-known tale: mean-spirited stepmother, spoiled stepsisters, overworked Cinderella, fairy godmother, glass slipper, charming prince, and, of course, happily-ever-after. What gives this book its flavor is the artwork. Within its Mexican setting, the characters are olive-skinned and dark-haired. Cultural references abound, as when a messenger comes carrying a banner announcing a “FIESTA” in beautiful papel picado. Cinderella is the picture of beauty, with her hair up in ribbons and flowers and her typically Mexican many-layered white dress. The companion volume, Snow White, set in Japan and illustrated by Misa Saburi, follows the same format. The simplified text tells the story of the beautiful princess sent to the forest by her wicked stepmother to be “done away with,” the dwarves that take her in, and, eventually, the happily-ever-after ending. Here too, what gives the book its flavor is the artwork. The characters wear traditional clothing, and the dwarves’ house has the requisite shoji screens, tatami mats and cherry blossoms in the garden. The puzzling question is, why the board-book presentation? Though the text is simplified, it’s still beyond the board-book audience, and the illustrations deserve full-size books.

A nice but not requisite purchase. (Board book/fairy tale. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7915-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

CLOTHESLINE CLUES TO JOBS PEOPLE DO

From the Clothesline Clues series

Pair this with Leo Timmers’ Who Is Driving? (2007) for twice the guessing fun.

Heling and Hembrook’s clever conceit challenges children to analyze a small town’s clotheslines to guess the job each of their owners does. 

Close-up on the clothesline: “Uniform and cap, / an invite for you. / Big bag of letters. / What job does she do?” A turn of the page reveals a macro view of the home, van and the woman doing her job, “She is a mail carrier.” Indeed, she can be spotted throughout the book delivering invitations to all the rest of the characters, who gather at the end for a “Launch Party.” The verses’ rhymes are spot-on, though the rhythm falters a couple of times. The authors nicely mix up the gender stereotypes often associated with several of these occupations, making the carpenter, firefighter and astronaut women. But while Davies keeps uniforms and props pretty neutral (he even avoids U.S. mail symbols), he keeps to the stereotypes that allow young readers to easily identify occupations—the farmer chews on a stalk of wheat; the beret-wearing artist sports a curly mustache. A subdued palette and plain white backgrounds keep kids’ focus on the clothing clues. Still, there are plenty of details to absorb—the cat with arched back that anticipates a spray of water, the firefighter who “lights” the rocket.

Pair this with Leo Timmers’ Who Is Driving? (2007) for twice the guessing fun. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-58089-251-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2012

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