A young bird, warm and lively, can’t bear kissing.

Rissy is a solid, roundish, colorful lovebird with three siblings, one mother, and one father who are all also lovebirds. They’re an affectionate bunch, as are their friends and relatives. Rissy’s on board for holding wings, “sky-high hugs,” tumbling, and roughhousing, but she can’t bear kisses (giving or receiving). She heads them off admirably—“ ‘No kissies!’ Rissy chirrup[s] with a most emphatic squeak”—but it’s stressful for her. Miss Bluebird accuses her of confusion, Grandma Lovebird of rudeness; schoolmates “think Rissy’s being mean.” Why? “We know lovebirds all love kisses,” they parrot. “ ‘Am I mean, Mom?’ Rissy wondered, / ‘or confused or rude or sick? / Are you certain I’m a lovebird? / Are you sure that I’m your chick? // Kissies make my tummy icky. / I feel worried, weird, and wrong. // If I can’t show love with kissies, / then I’ll never quite belong.’ ” Mom’s bolstering of Rissy’s boundaries and reassurance that she’s a lovebird family member are cheerworthy; now Rissy can explain her preferences more fully, with greater assurance than before, secure in her family and identity. Howes’ rhyming verse is both rollicking and steady, which offsets Rissy’s vulnerability without undermining it. Engle’s wonderfully stocky lovebirds are multicolored, with watercolor hue gradations and expressive beak shapes. This is an artistic gem for consent discussions, sensory-processing contexts, and anyone who champions children’s agency and bodily autonomy.

Radiant. (note to kids; note to caregivers) (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-9798-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Safe to creep on by.


Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among


Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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