SUN FLOWER LION

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 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

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 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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