New readers deserve better.



From the Freckleface Strawberry series

Moore lampoons school lunches in this early-reader series outing.

Both Freckleface Strawberry and her heavy friend Windy Pants Patrick (readers may well wonder about his name, as he is wearing shorts) love to eat. They love hot dogs, grilled cheese, peanut butter and jelly, chicken fingers, and noodles. But neither especially likes to eat school lunches. One day, Freckleface sits down with an especially interesting-looking lunch consisting of a bowl of green noodles. In an unfunny schtick that’s repeated too many times, one by one three friends ask her what it is. “That is lunch.” “But what is it?” “I do not know.” Finally, after a teacher shushes them for yelling instead of eating, Freckleface digs in. And though she still may not know what lunch is, she does know that she likes it. Moore’s characters lack personality, though at least classmate Noah has a trait—yelling instead of talking—that makes him stand out from the others. And though the subject is near and dear to readers’ hearts, this treatment can’t hold a candle to the likes of True Kelley’s School Lunch (2005). Pham’s illustrations portray Freckleface, Windy Pants, and Noah as starkly white; Southeast Asian Winnie is Freckleface’s only friend of color. There are two other brown girls in the cafeteria, but they have no interactions with the main characters.

New readers deserve better. (Early reader. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-39192-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught...


A child struggles with the worry and anxiety that come with an unexpected problem.

In a wonderful balance of text and pictures, the team responsible for What Do You Do With an Idea (2014) returns with another book inspiring children to feel good about themselves. A child frets about a problem that won’t go away: “I wished it would just disappear. I tried everything I could to hide from it. I even found ways to disguise myself. But it still found me.” The spare, direct narrative is accompanied by soft gray illustrations in pencil and watercolor. The sepia-toned figure of the child is set apart from the background and surrounded by lots of white space, visually isolating the problem, which is depicted as a purple storm cloud looming overhead. Color is added bit by bit as the storm cloud grows and its color becomes more saturated. With a backpack and umbrella, the child tries to escape the problem while the storm swirls, awash with compass points scattered across the pages. The pages brighten into splashes of yellow as the child decides to tackle the problem head-on and finds that it holds promise for unlooked-for opportunity.

A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught situations, this belongs on the shelf alongside Molly Bang’s Sophie books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943-20000-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love.


A mysterious love letter brightens the lives of three forest animals.

Appealing mixed-media illustrations made of ink, gouache, brush marker, and colored pencil combine with a timely message that one kind act can start a chain reaction of kindness. When Hedgehog, Bunny, and Squirrel stumble in turn upon a formally composed love letter, each finds their life improved: Squirrel is less anxious, Bunny spreads goodwill through helpfulness, and Hedgehog is unusually cheerful. As the friends converge to try to discover who sent the letter, the real author appears in a (rather) convenient turn: a mouse who wrote an ode to the moon. Though disappointed that the letter was never meant for them, the friends reflect that the letter still made the world a happier place, making it a “wonderful mix-up.” Since there’s a lot of plot to follow, the book will best serve more-observant readers who are able to piece the narrative cleanly, but those older readers may also better appreciate the special little touches, such as the letter’s enticing, old-fashioned typewriter-style look, vignettes that capture small moments, or the subdued color palette that lends an elegant air. Drawn with minimalist, scribbly lines, the creatures achieve an invigorating balance between charming and spontaneous, with smudged lines that hint at layers of fur and simple, dotted facial expressions.

A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-274157-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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