SUN FLOWER LION

As brilliant as can be.

A sun, a flower, and a lion. They look similar, no?

Introduced in a wordless panel before the title page, the three figures bear at least two shapes in common. They’re also the same combination of warm yellow and (somehow just as warm) white, outlined in thick black line that pops against the muted yellow background. The text, divided into six short chapters, goes on to introduce the figures in isolation: “This is the sun. / Can you see it?” the narrator asks before going on to proclaim that the sun “is as bright as a flower.” When the flower is introduced, it’s compared to a lion. The lion? He isn’t compared to anything but instead smells the flower and warms himself in the sun. In the next chapter, the lion dreams that the flowers are sun-sized cookies. He wakes up hungry and runs home as fast as he can. Can readers spot him on the page? Using a vocabulary of fewer than 60 words and their variants—and a visual vocabulary of even fewer shapes and colors—Henkes creates an impeccably designed story that’s rewarding for toddlers and early readers alike. The repetitive structure and tone call to mind the playful simplicity of Mem Fox and Judy Horacek’s Where Is the Green Sheep? (2004). With imagination at its center, this participatory read-aloud also cleverly introduces the concept of simile (“It looks like a lion”) and metaphor (“The flowers are cookies”).

As brilliant as can be. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-286610-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

DON'T LET THE PIGEON DRIVE THE SLEIGH!

A stocking stuffer par excellence, just right for dishing up with milk and cookies.

Pigeon finds something better to drive than some old bus.

This time it’s Santa delivering the fateful titular words, and with a “Ho. Ho. Whoa!” the badgering begins: “C’mon! Where’s your holiday spirit? It would be a Christmas MIRACLE! Don’t you want to be part of a Christmas miracle…?” Pigeon is determined: “I can do Santa stuff!” Like wrapping gifts (though the accompanying illustration shows a rather untidy present), delivering them (the image of Pigeon attempting to get an oversize sack down a chimney will have little ones giggling), and eating plenty of cookies. Alas, as Willems’ legion of young fans will gleefully predict, not even Pigeon’s by-now well-honed persuasive powers (“I CAN BE JOLLY!”) will budge the sleigh’s large and stinky reindeer guardian. “BAH. Also humbug.” In the typically minimalist art, the frustrated feathered one sports a floppily expressive green and red elf hat for this seasonal addition to the series—but then discards it at the end for, uh oh, a pair of bunny ears. What could Pigeon have in mind now? “Egg delivery, anyone?”

A stocking stuffer par excellence, just right for dishing up with milk and cookies. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781454952770

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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