This excellent take on modern, blended families melds a believable, resonant story arc and winsome, child-appealing...

WHEN OTIS COURTED MAMA

Coyote pup Cardell is perfectly happy with his parents. He lives in a cozy adobe cottage with his artist mom and visits his dad across the desert, sharing him with his stepmother and stepbrother.

When Otis comes a-courting his mother, Cardell is resentful. Mama has had other suitors, and she and Cardell had agreed on each gent’s flaws. Cardell presumes that Mama will similarly dispatch Otis and growls at the persistent suitor. Otis can’t make jalapeño pancakes like Cardell’s dad, and “his howl sounded like he had rocks in the back of his throat.” Otis does have his own talents, however, and he knows that Cardell is “one tough little hombre.” Gradually, he wins the pup over with his delicious prickly-pear pudding, exceptional pouncing skills and hilarious stories. “Cardell’s grrr…got softer and softer until it disappeared altogether.” By the time, a “few moons later,” Otis proposes to Mama, Cardell and he are aligned, awaiting her answer in matching 10-gallon hats. Appelt’s telling sparkles. She expertly foreshadows the realistic conflict between Cardell and Otis by depicting the young coyote’s secure relationships with both his parents. McElmurry’s delightful gouache paintings depict a stylized desert Southwest. These coyotes often walk upright; they paint, dance, make music and fully embrace life.

This excellent take on modern, blended families melds a believable, resonant story arc and winsome, child-appealing illustrations. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-15-2166885

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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WE ARE IN A BOOK!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Stalwart friends Piggie and Gerald the elephant push the metafictive envelope in a big way when they realize that "someone is looking at us." Is it a monster? worries Gerald. "No," replies the squinting Piggie. "It is... / a reader! / A reader is reading us!" How? wonders Gerald. Piggie drapes herself on a word bubble to demonstrate: "We are in a book!" "THAT IS SO COOL!" Joy leads to a little bit of clever practical joking—Piggie figures out how to make the readers say "banana" out loud, and hilarity ensues—which gives way to existential angst: "The book ends?!" exclaims an appalled Gerald. Emergent readers just beginning to grapple one-on-one with the rules of the printed codex will find the friends' antics both funny and provocative: Just who is in control here, anyway? As always, Willems displays his customary control of both body language and pacing even as he challenges his readers to engage with his characters and the physicality of their book . The friends' solution to the book's imminent end? "Hello. Will you please read us again?" You bet. (Early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-4231-3308-7

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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