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RIVER ROSE AND THE MAGICAL LULLABY

Clarkson’s fans may like this, but Kenny Loggins’ Footloose, illustrated by Tim Bowers (2016), is a superior zoo...

Little River Rose has a magical adventure in Clarkson’s debut as a picture-book author.

Depicted as a little white girl with straw-colored hair, River Rose is so excited about tomorrow’s trip to the zoo that she cannot sleep until her mother sings the titular lullaby. In the middle of the night, she is woken by balloons squeaking outside her window. Grabbing them and her little black puppy, Joplin, she sails through the night and is deposited in the middle of the zoo. There, she and Joplin are greeted by throngs of happy animals for a night of play. It all comes to a halt when the polar bears tell her they’d rather not play but sleep: “The trick to fun is to let the day be done. / That's the secret that we keep,” they say. In a closing sequence that will mystify many young listeners, River Rose and Joplin snuggle down with a big polar bear and three cubs and then, with the turn of the page, are back in bed, the magical balloons sparkling quietly to the side. Clarkson’s text unreels in rhyming couplets that often feel forced when read aloud but may sound just right in the accompanying download (not available for review). Hughes’ scratchy illustrations are appropriately ebullient but add little to the text.

Clarkson’s fans may like this, but Kenny Loggins’ Footloose, illustrated by Tim Bowers (2016), is a superior zoo adventure/song combo. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-242756-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2016

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CARPENTER'S HELPER

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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