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A light spin on the “be careful what you wish for” theme.

A bear in search of some shut-eye ends up with a day at the beach.

Shelby, an anthropomorphic brown bear, wants to sleep but is distracted by woodland noises. He searches for a quiet spot and ends up in what he thinks is “the PERFECT cave, deep, dark, and PEACEFUL, with no crunch-munching squirrels or tat-tatting birds,” but it’s actually the undercarriage of a passenger bus. The bus’s destination is a crowded beach, which Shelby finds just as noisy as the woods, whether he’s crouched under the boardwalk or seeking refuge in seagrass. The worst disruption comes at night when, while burrowed in an elaborate sand castle, Shelby is suddenly awoken by fireworks. His sleep is then interrupted at daybreak when he hears a “cub” crying—it’s a mewling orange kitten stranded on a piling. The bear swims out and rescues it, only to then be overwhelmed by news crews covering the story. He slinks off and then is delighted to find a bus that returns him to the woods where he began. The noises are still present, but odds and ends from his journey help him block them out and, finally, sleep. Throughout, the bright, cartoon-style art fills in details suggested by text, such as a swooping dragon kite that comes “SWISH-SWOOOOSH-FLAP-FLAP-FLAP[PING]” over seagrass. Although the setup has echoes of Margot Zemach’s It Could Always Be Worse, this tale lacks that classic’s folkloric compression.

A light spin on the “be careful what you wish for” theme. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3679-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes.

A lift-the-flap book gives the littlest trick-or-treaters some practice identifying partygoers under their costumes.

Little Blue Truck and his buddy Toad are off to a party, and they invite readers (and a black cat) along for the ride: “ ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ / says Little Blue. / ‘It’s Halloween!’ / You come, too.” As they drive, they are surprised (and joined) by many of their friends in costume. “Who’s that in a tutu / striking a pose / up on the tiniest / tips of her toes? / Under the mask / who do you see?” Lifting the flap unmasks a friend: “ ‘Quack!’ says the duck. / ‘It’s me! It’s me!’ ” The sheep is disguised as a clown, the cow’s a queen, the pig’s a witch, the hen and her chick are pirates, and the horse is a dragon. Not to be left out, Little Blue has a costume, too. The flaps are large and sturdy, and enough of the animals’ characteristic features are visible under and around the costumes that little ones will be able to make successful guesses even on the first reading. Lovely curvy shapes and autumn colors fade to dusky blues as night falls, and children are sure to notice the traditional elements of a Halloween party: apple bobbing, lit jack-o’-lanterns, and punch and treats.

Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-77253-3

Page Count: 16

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable.

You think you know shapes? Animals? Blend them together, and you might see them both a little differently!

What a mischievous twist on a concept book! With wordplay and a few groan-inducing puns, Neal creates connections among animals and shapes that are both unexpected and so seemingly obvious that readers might wonder why they didn’t see them all along. Of course, a “lazy turtle” meeting an oval would create the side-splitting combo of a “SLOW-VAL.” A dramatic page turn transforms a deeply saturated, clean-lined green oval by superimposing a head and turtle shell atop, with watery blue ripples completing the illusion. Minimal backgrounds and sketchy, impressionistic detailing keep the focus right on the zany animals. Beginning with simple shapes, the geometric forms become more complicated as the book advances, taking readers from a “soaring bird” that meets a triangle to become a “FLY-ANGLE” to a “sleepy lion” nonagon “YAWN-AGON.” Its companion text, Animal Colors, delves into color theory, this time creating entirely hybrid animals, such as the “GREEN WHION” with maned head and whale’s tail made from a “blue whale and a yellow lion.” It’s a compelling way to visualize color mixing, and like Animal Shapes, it’s got verve. Who doesn’t want to shout out that a yellow kangaroo/green moose blend is a “CHARTREUSE KANGAMOOSE”?

Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0534-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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