An enjoyable, visually appealing story that needs to clean up its telling.


Cotter Otter in Treasure Water

Cotter Otter turns down different sea creatures who want to play pirates, until a storm leads them to work—and play—together.

Debut author Bleu teams with experienced illustrator Goembel (Animal Fair, 2012, etc.), whose playful illustrations portray a watery world and characters young readers will enjoy. Unfortunately, the otherwise well-plotted story has a clunky rhythm and ragged rhyme scheme that not only trips the tongue but sometimes waylays meaning. Take, for instance, the first stanza: “Cotter Otter in treasure water / with his sword held high and just the right look, / feels bold as a pirate captain with a seaweed hook.” The corresponding illustration shows only some of those details (i.e., not the seaweed hook). When a stingray asks to join the pirate game, Cotter humorously answers, “Cay Ray, your body is so flat. / You couldn’t wear a pirate hat.” Yet the refrain doesn’t quite roll off the tongue: “We are very different, can’t you see? / Playing together seems ridiculous to me.” When Cotter meets Brad Crab, he rejects him for his hurt legs. Then the otter meets a whale who volunteers to be pirate captain. “Gail whale, you are too big for a pirate ship. / If you came on board, it would surely tip!” Just as Cotter swims by a sunken pirate ship, wishing he could find mates, the water swirls and shakes—an avalanche traps the creatures underwater. “Cotter Otter can hardly see, as Gail Whale shouts, ‘We need air to breathe!’ ” Gail is also tangled in rope, which Cotter has Brad cut with his claws. Too often, though, characters’ emotions are told rather than shown, sometimes while stretching for a rhyme: “Cotter…starts to scream and pout, as rocks keep crashing causing fear and doubt.” With Gail urging them to work together, Cotter suggests the thin ray might slip through a hole in the rocks. She returns with a fleet of determined-looking stingrays, who shovel the rocks away. They all shoot to the surface for a welcome breath. The final spread shows four friends playing pirates together, the whale being the ship. Perhaps telling the story in prose, using just the right words, would have better served its child-appropriate theme and inviting illustrations.

An enjoyable, visually appealing story that needs to clean up its telling.

Pub Date: July 16, 2014

ISBN: 978-1634481465

Page Count: 24

Publisher: America Star Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2015

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Playful, engaging, and full of opportunities for empathy—a raucous storytime hit.


From the There’s a…in Your Book series

Readers try to dislodge a monster from the pages of this emotive and interactive read-aloud.

“OH NO!” the story starts. “There’s a monster in your book!” The blue, round-headed monster with pink horns and a pink-tipped tail can be seen cheerfully munching on the opening page. “Let’s try to get him out,” declares the narrator. Readers are encouraged to shake, tilt, and spin the book around, while the monster careens around an empty background looking scared and lost. Viewers are exhorted to tickle the monster’s feet, blow on the page, and make a really loud noise. Finally, shockingly, it works: “Now he’s in your room!” But clearly a monster in your book is safer than a monster in your room, so he’s coaxed back into the illustrations and lulled to sleep, curled up under one page and cuddling a bit of another like a child with their blankie. The monster’s entirely cute appearance and clear emotional reactions to his treatment add to the interactive aspect, and some young readers might even resist the instructions to avoid hurting their new pal. Children will be brought along on the monster’s journey, going from excited, noisy, and wiggly to calm and steady (one can hope).

Playful, engaging, and full of opportunities for empathy—a raucous storytime hit. (Picture book. 2-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6456-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Unhei has just left her Korean homeland and come to America with her parents. As she rides the school bus toward her first day of school, she remembers the farewell at the airport in Korea and examines the treasured gift her grandmother gave her: a small red pouch containing a wooden block on which Unhei’s name is carved. Unhei is ashamed when the children on the bus find her name difficult to pronounce and ridicule it. Lesson learned, she declines to tell her name to anyone else and instead offers, “Um, I haven’t picked one yet. But I’ll let you know next week.” Her classmates write suggested names on slips of paper and place them in a jar. One student, Joey, takes a particular liking to Unhei and sees the beauty in her special stamp. When the day arrives for Unhei to announce her chosen name, she discovers how much Joey has helped. Choi (Earthquake, see below, etc.) draws from her own experience, interweaving several issues into this touching account and delicately addressing the challenges of assimilation. The paintings are done in creamy, earth-tone oils and augment the story nicely. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-80613-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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