It’s not the freshest take on friendship, but the toys bring the point home.

DUCK AND PENGUIN ARE NOT FRIENDS

Can these toys get along? Not if they can help it.

Duck and Penguin—the toys in question—are the beloved stuffed-animal pals of BFFs Betty and Maud, respectively. The two love playing together and are convinced their cloth companions are equally enamored of their activities—swinging, building sandcastles, baking, painting, and playing baby dolls. However, the girls are so caught up in their own enjoyment that they’re oblivious to the enmity between the plush animals. When Betty and Maud briefly leave Duck and Penguin on their own, the toys seize the chance to escape being “itty-bitty babies” and do the things they testily endured earlier—but this time, they’ve chosen to do so; unsurprisingly, they have fun. Trouble was, the toys disliked having friendship and games imposed on them. Children will likely get this unoriginal message, but there’s also a cautionary note for well-meaning caregivers who overenforce togetherness on kids. The energetic, expressive, and childlike illustrations will elicit chuckles as spreads portray how much Duck and Penguin initially oppose each other; incorporated onomatopoeic words reinforce their displeasure. The toys are depicted the worse for wear: Duck trails a thread from an unraveling seam, Penguin’s losing stuffing. The ever smiling, brown-haired girls are appealing: Betty is white and bespectacled; Maud is black and wears her hair in two afro puffs.

It’s not the freshest take on friendship, but the toys bring the point home. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68263-132-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles.

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YOU MATTER

Employing a cast of diverse children reminiscent of that depicted in Another (2019), Robinson shows that every living entity has value.

After opening endpapers that depict an aerial view of a busy playground, the perspective shifts to a black child, ponytails tied with beaded elastics, peering into a microscope. So begins an exercise in perspective. From those bits of green life under the lens readers move to “Those who swim with the tide / and those who don’t.” They observe a “pest”—a mosquito biting a dinosaur, a “really gassy” planet, and a dog whose walker—a child in a pink hijab—has lost hold of the leash. Periodically, the examples are validated with the titular refrain. Textured paint strokes and collage elements contrast with uncluttered backgrounds that move from white to black to white. The black pages in the middle portion foreground scenes in space, including a black astronaut viewing Earth; the astronaut is holding an image of another black youngster who appears on the next spread flying a toy rocket and looking lonely. There are many such visual connections, creating emotional interest and invitations for conversation. The story’s conclusion spins full circle, repeating opening sentences with new scenarios. From the microscopic to the cosmic, word and image illuminate the message without a whiff of didacticism.

Whimsy, intelligence, and a subtle narrative thread make this rise to the top of a growing list of self-love titles. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5344-2169-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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