For a genuinely engaging hamster adventure (for slightly older children), pick up Peggy Rathman's 10 Minutes Till Bedtime...

UP HAMSTER, DOWN HAMSTER

Hamsters demonstrate opposites in this new board book.

The back cover proclaims, “Hamsters love their opposites!” but there is not much to love about this slight overview of contrasting pairs strung together with a visual narrative arc set at what appears to be a summer camp. The pages are sturdy and the hamsters are cute, but that's not enough to make anyone fall in love. Health-conscious readers may take exception to one of Reich's choices. She illustrates “YES” with a piece of cake and “NO” with a steaming bowl of greens—hardly a positive message to give children about vegetables. The most original pairing is “SHHH hamster / SHOUT hamster,” in which one reading hamster decides to make a ruckus and disturb two other peaceful hamsters. After a speedy romp through the day culminating with “DAY hamster” (three hamsters float in a canoe) and “Night hamster” (three hamsters toast marshmallows), the story ends abruptly with “Out like a light HAMSTERS.” The last four pages feel like filler: all eight hamsters are seen smiling in a line, followed by the copyright information on the last interior page and then, on the inside back cover, repeated images of six objects seen earlier in the book.

For a genuinely engaging hamster adventure (for slightly older children), pick up Peggy Rathman's 10 Minutes Till Bedtime (1998)—an exact opposite of this weak offering. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4598-1013-6

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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Fun format; bland text.

LOVEBLOCK

From the Block Books series

A hefty board book filled with ruminations on the nature of love.

While love is the topic of this board book, it’s the inventive gatefolds and charmingly vintage illustrations that readers will fall for. Brimming with sweeping declarations along the lines of “Love is / strong. // You have my back and I’ll always have yours,” the text sounds like a series of greeting cards strung together. It’s benign enough, but are most toddlers interested in generic proclamations about love? Some statements, like the ones on “unsinkable” hippos or a panda parent holding a cub “steady,” could introduce new vocabulary. At least there’s plenty of winsome critters to fawn over as the surprisingly sturdy flaps tell dramatic little ministories for each cartoon-style animal species. A downcast baby giraffe looks longingly up at a too-high tasty branch; lift a flap to bring an adult giraffe—and the delicacy—down to the baby, or watch an adventurous young fox retreat into a fold-down–flap burrow to learn that “my heart will always be home with you.” At points, the pages are tricky to turn in the correct order, but clever touches, like a series of folds that slow readers down to a sloth’s speed, make up for it. The book concludes with a gatefold revealing a vibrant playground populated with racially and ethnically diverse humans; two are wheelchair users.

Fun format; bland text. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3153-2

Page Count: 84

Publisher: Abrams Appleseed

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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For toddlers unafraid of typical Halloween imagery.

FIVE BLACK CATS

A troop of cats traverse a spooky landscape as they make their way to a party hosted by ghosts.

Each double-page spread shows the felines’ encounters with the likes of an owl, jack-o’-lanterns or a bat. One or two of these creepy meetings may be too abstract for the youngest readers, as the cats hear eerie noises with no discernible source on the page. The text, which consists of one rhyming couplet per scene, mostly scans despite a couple of wobbles: “Five black cats get a bit of a scare / As the flip-flapping wings of a bat fill the air.” The sleek, slightly retro art, likely created using a computer, depicts the cats cavorting at night through a shadowy cityscape, the countryside and a haunted house; they may scare some toddlers and delight others. A brighter color palette would have given the project a friendlier, more universal appeal. Luckily, the well-lit, final party scene provides a playful conclusion.

For toddlers unafraid of typical Halloween imagery. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-58925-611-8

Page Count: 22

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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