A delightful, colorful book with a lesson about loss and responsibility.

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Ella and Lola go to market together, but not everything goes as planned in Urban’s illustrated children’s book

Gray toy bunny Lola hasn’t learned her lesson since her last adventure with her special friend, human girl Ella, in Hop Lola Hop (2022). As this story starts, the two are on good terms as they embark on a series of tasty adventures, including eating ice cream, baking treats, and planning a picnic. They finally depart for the farmers market with Ella’s mom, where they encounter dozens of stalls that catch their eye. The girl and bunny wander off alone and find themselves in the part of the market that has soap, flowers, and produce, not all of which they need for their picnic. Illustrator Kalla zooms out on the rich, brightly colored location, showing just how big and disorienting it is. Like other illustrations, it celebrates the hustle and bustle of everyday life, but readers will be able to spot Ella’s mom looking around in worry. Lola’s having so much fun that she wanders away again, leaving Ella in distress: “It certainly wasn’t the first time for Lola to disappear,” writes Urban, “but that didn’t mean Ella would get used to losing her—not today—not EVER!” This story insightfully shows how Ella’s losing Lola overlaps with Ella’s mom’s losing her daughter; it will teach children about the importance of staying with your companions and how to solve a problem when it arises. It conveys this message in a cute, child-friendly way that will appeal to many preschoolers. The formatting gives the text extra verve as it rises and falls (“Hop! Hop! Hop!”) or becomes larger to emphasize particular words (“TOO LONG”). At the end of the story, Urban invites readers to make strawberry pancakes of their own, using a recipe at the back of the book.

A delightful, colorful book with a lesson about loss and responsibility.

Pub Date: June 1, 2023

ISBN: 9781912678808

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little Steps Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023


From the Once Upon a World series

A nice but not requisite purchase.

A retelling of the classic fairy tale in board-book format and with a Mexican setting.

Though simplified for a younger audience, the text still relates the well-known tale: mean-spirited stepmother, spoiled stepsisters, overworked Cinderella, fairy godmother, glass slipper, charming prince, and, of course, happily-ever-after. What gives this book its flavor is the artwork. Within its Mexican setting, the characters are olive-skinned and dark-haired. Cultural references abound, as when a messenger comes carrying a banner announcing a “FIESTA” in beautiful papel picado. Cinderella is the picture of beauty, with her hair up in ribbons and flowers and her typically Mexican many-layered white dress. The companion volume, Snow White, set in Japan and illustrated by Misa Saburi, follows the same format. The simplified text tells the story of the beautiful princess sent to the forest by her wicked stepmother to be “done away with,” the dwarves that take her in, and, eventually, the happily-ever-after ending. Here too, what gives the book its flavor is the artwork. The characters wear traditional clothing, and the dwarves’ house has the requisite shoji screens, tatami mats and cherry blossoms in the garden. The puzzling question is, why the board-book presentation? Though the text is simplified, it’s still beyond the board-book audience, and the illustrations deserve full-size books.

A nice but not requisite purchase. (Board book/fairy tale. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7915-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017


Animated and educational.

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. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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