Sinks.

READ REVIEW

BLUE BOAT

A tugboat rescues a sailing family in distress in this picture book.

Although the premise of the story appears to be simple and harmless—anthropomorphized Blue Boat responds to a mayday call from a family on their damaged sailboat (“Missing rudder, broken fin— / wild nor’easter blowing in!”), thereby saving the day—it nonetheless raises disturbing questions. Unaddressed is how the sailboat came to sustain the major damage of losing its rudder and breaking its keel, why the family is out sailing when a nor’easter is coming, and, on a visual note, why the adults aren’t wearing life preservers. It’s hard not to conclude that the sailing family has made some pretty irresponsible decisions, and so the fundamental storyline sours, at least for readers who know sailing. While the illustrations are bright and attractive, some are inaccurate. Cutters, mentioned on a double-page spread, are a type of sailboat with more than one headsail, but the illustration shows sloops, and a mooring line should be tied to a cleat on a sailboat’s deck, not to the lifeline as shown (although as an irresponsible decision, it stays true to the story). Making matters even worse, the clueless sailing family is multiracial (light-skinned mom, dark-skinned dad), and Blue Boat’s captain is white—that she is also a woman does not redeem the story from white-savior symbolism.

Sinks. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: May 24, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-451-47141-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug.

THE HUG

What to do when you’re a prickly animal hankering for a hug? Why, find another misfit animal also searching for an embrace!

Sweet but “tricky to hug” little Hedgehog is down in the dumps. Wandering the forest, Hedgehog begs different animals for hugs, but each rejects them. Readers will giggle at their panicked excuses—an evasive squirrel must suddenly count its three measly acorns; a magpie begins a drawn-out song—but will also be indignant on poor hedgehog’s behalf. Hedgehog has the appealingly pink-cheeked softness typical of Dunbar’s art, and the gentle watercolors are nonthreatening, though she also captures the animals’ genuine concern about being poked. A wise owl counsels the dejected hedgehog that while the prickles may frighten some, “there’s someone for everyone.” That’s when Hedgehog spots a similarly lonely tortoise, rejected due to its “very hard” shell but perfectly matched for a spiky new friend. They race toward each other until the glorious meeting, marked with swoony peach swirls and overjoyed grins. At this point, readers flip the book to hear the same gloomy tale from the tortoise’s perspective until it again culminates in that joyous hug, a book turn that’s made a pleasure with thick creamy paper and solid binding.

Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-571-34875-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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It’s a bit hard to dance, or count, to this beat.

ONE MORE DINO ON THE FLOOR

Dinos that love to move and groove get children counting from one to 10—and perhaps moving to the beat.

Beginning with a solo bop by a female dino (she has eyelashes, doncha know), the dinosaur dance party begins. Each turn of the page adds another dino and a change in the dance genre: waltz, country line dancing, disco, limbo, square dancing, hip-hop, and swing. As the party would be incomplete without the moonwalk, the T. Rex does the honors…and once they are beyond their initial panic at his appearance, the onlookers cheer wildly. The repeated refrain on each spread allows for audience participation, though it doesn’t easily trip off the tongue: “They hear a swish. / What’s this? / One more? / One more dino on the floor.” Some of the prehistoric beasts are easily identifiable—pterodactyl, ankylosaurus, triceratops—but others will be known only to the dino-obsessed; none are identified, other than T-Rex. Packed spreads filled with psychedelically colored dinos sporting blocks of color, stripes, or polka dots (and infectious looks of joy) make identification even more difficult, to say nothing of counting them. Indeed, this fails as a counting primer: there are extra animals (and sometimes a grumpy T-Rex) in the backgrounds, and the next dino to join the party pokes its head into the frame on the page before. Besides all that, most kids won’t get the dance references.

It’s a bit hard to dance, or count, to this beat. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1598-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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