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

RIVER ROSE AND THE MAGICAL LULLABY

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. 19, 2016

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

CARPENTER'S HELPER

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. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride.

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THE PIGEON WILL RIDE THE ROLLER COASTER!

The Pigeon is on an emotional—and physical—roller coaster.

Since learning about the existence of roller coasters, he’s become giddy with excitement. The Pigeon prepares mentally: He’ll need a ticket and “exemplary patience” to wait in line. He envisions zooming up and down and careening through dizzying turns and loops. Then, he imagines his emotions afterward: exhilaration, post-ride blues, pride at having accomplished such a feat, and enthusiasm at the prospect of riding again. (He’ll also feel dizzy and nauseous.) All this before the Pigeon ever sets claw on an actual coaster. So…will he really try it? Are roller coasters fun? When the moment comes, everything seems to go according to plan: waiting in line, settling into the little car, THEN—off he goes! Though the ride itself isn’t quite what the Pigeon expected, it will delight readers. Wearing his feelings on his wing and speaking directly to the audience in first person, the Pigeon describes realistic thoughts and emotions about waiting and guessing about the unknown—common childhood experiences. No sentiment is misplaced; kids will relate to Pigeon’s eagerness and apprehension. The ending falls somewhat flat, but the whole humorous point is that an underwhelming adventure can still be thrilling enough to warrant repeating. Willems’ trademark droll illustrations will have readers giggling. The roller-coaster attendant is light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4549-4686-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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