A tale about knowledge, power, and trust that reminds readers we used to speak with animals and still do—it already feels...

THE GIRL AND THE WOLF

A berry-picking excursion turns potentially frightening when a girl wanders from her mother and encounters a wolf.

Despite her mother’s warning to stay close as night approaches, the girl finds herself lost in the woods and feeling “cold and scared.” In classic wolf-narrative style, a “tall grey wolf with big white teeth” appears, but unlike those in many traditional tales, this lupine offers help. Only by balancing experiential knowledge (identifying berries that are safe to eat) with instinctual trust (following the wolf’s guidance) can the girl hope to reunite with her family. Poetic descriptions and spare prose combine with simple yet textured mixed-media illustrations to create a story with a deeply cinematic quality. Readers will likely infer the girl and her mother are First Nations peoples due to illustrator Flett’s (Cree-Métis) visual cues of brown skin, black hair, and moccasins and through author Vermette’s (Métis) textual reference of tying tobacco in cloth to leave as a thank-you. Muted, earth-toned images give depth while allowing the girl to stand out in her red dress. Though similar to stories from the oral tradition or even the European canon, this is “a completely made-up story.” It’s got a worthy message for any reader to enjoy, and Indigenous and First Nations readers will especially connect with characters who nourish traditional ways of knowing while existing in an active, contemporary present.

A tale about knowledge, power, and trust that reminds readers we used to speak with animals and still do—it already feels like a classic. (author’s note) (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-926886-54-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Theytus Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Animated and educational.

I'M A HARE, SO THERE!

A hare and a ground squirrel banter about the differences between related animals that are often confused for one another.

Jack is “no Flopsy, Mopsy, or Cottontail,” but a “H-A-R-E, hare!” Like sheep and goats, or turtles and tortoises, rabbits and hares may look similar, but hares are bigger, their fur changes color in the winter, and they are born with their eyes wide open. As the ground squirrel (not to be mistaken for a chipmunk (even though Jack cheekily calls it “Chippie”) and Jack engage in playful discussion about animals, a sneaky coyote prowls after them through the Sonoran Desert. This picture book conveys the full narrative in spirited, speech-bubbled dialogue set on expressive illustrations of talking animals. Dark outlines around the characters make their shapes pop against the softly blended colors of the desert backgrounds. Snappy back-and-forth paired with repetition and occasional rhyme enhances the story’s appeal as a read-aloud. As the story progresses, the colors of the sky shift from dawn to dusk, providing subtle, visual bookends for the narrative. One page of backmatter offers a quick guide to eight easily confused pairs, and a second turns a subsequent exploration of the book into a seek-and-find of 15 creatures (and one dessert) hidden in the desert. Unfortunately, while most of the creatures from the seek-and-find appear in poses that match the illustrations in the challenge, not all of them are consistently represented. (This book was reviewed digitally with 7-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 53.3% of actual size.)

Animated and educational. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-12506-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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