WILLOW’S WHISPERS

What first seems to be a narrow lesson becomes cheerful inspiration, even for readers who don’t share this specific quandary. “[W]hen Willow spoke, her words slipped out as soft and shy as a secret,” causing lonely frustration at school. Nobody hears Willow’s acceptance of a group invitation to eat lunch, so she eats alone; the teacher mishears Willow’s juice preference and pours orange, which makes Willow’s lip crinkle; a bully grabs Willow’s toy because whispers can’t stop a bully. At home, mellow dad has faith—“one day your voice will wiggle its way out”—but Willow’s own steam produces the solution: a glitter-covered cardboard tube. This “magic microphone” amplifies her voice, solving everything, until a drop to the floor makes it (implausibly) “crumpled”; but by then, her loudness has had enough experience to emerge talisman-free. Font sizes change to convey volume. Smiley Photoshop kids with black-dot eyes, though stiff-armed and visually unsophisticated, have enough facial energy to carry the plot’s emotions. A victory for any reader who struggles to be heard, even metaphorically. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-55453-280-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2010

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Gently encourages empathy, compassion, and consideration.

TOMORROW I'LL BE KIND

How will you behave tomorrow?

Utilizing the same format and concept of her popular Tomorrow I’ll Be Brave (2018), Hische presents young listeners with short, studied rhymes that describe various positive attributes (being helpful, patient, gentle, honest, generous, graceful, and kind). Also included are kid-friendly ways to incorporate these behaviors into daily life, with the underlying goal of making the world a better place. The illustrations, which feature friends in the forms of a mouse, cat, and rabbit, are colorful and appealing, and they extend the text by showing some additional ways of realizing the characteristics mentioned. Overall, the intentions are aboveboard, but this is a volume intended to teach about positive values and behavior, and as such, it comes across as somewhat treacly and proselytizing. The key words, incorporated into the illustrations in a graphic manner, are sometimes a bit difficult to read, and occasionally, select vocabulary and phrases (“to myself I will be true”; “my heart, my guiding light”) seem better suited for an older readership. Still, as an introduction to personality characteristics, beneficial behaviors, and social-emotional skills, this is a solid choice, and fans of the previous volume are likely to embrace this one as well. “I’ll dream of all the good that comes / when we all just do our best,” the text explains—a sentiment that’s hard to rebut.

Gently encourages empathy, compassion, and consideration. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-8704-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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This is a tremendously moving story, but some people will be moved only on the second reading, after they’ve Googled “How to...

I NEED A HUG

A hug shouldn’t require an instruction manual—but some do.

A porcupine can frighten even the largest animal. In this picture book, a bear and a deer, along with a small rabbit, each run away when they hear eight simple words and their name: “I need a hug. Will you cuddle me,…?” As they flee, each utters a definitive refusal that rhymes with their name. The repetitive structure gives Blabey plenty of opportunities for humor, because every animal responds to the question with an outlandish, pop-eyed expression of panic. But the understated moments are even funnier. Each animal takes a moment to think over the request, and the drawings are nuanced enough that readers can see the creatures react with slowly building anxiety or, sometimes, a glassy stare. These silent reaction shots not only show exquisite comic timing, but they make the rhymes in the text feel pleasingly subtle by delaying the final line in each stanza. The story is a sort of fable about tolerance. It turns out that a porcupine can give a perfectly adequate hug when its quills are flat and relaxed, but no one stays around long enough to find out except for an animal that has its own experiences with intolerance: a snake. It’s an apt, touching moral, but the climax may confuse some readers as they try to figure out the precise mechanics of the embrace.

This is a tremendously moving story, but some people will be moved only on the second reading, after they’ve Googled “How to pet a porcupine.” (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Jan. 29, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-29710-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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