Agreeable animal fun but weightless as a too-brief visit to the zoo.

SLOTH TO THE RESCUE

When a girl leaves her school project at the zoo, it’s up to Sloth and his faster-moving friends to deliver the notebook back to her.

Patti’s been spending her summer working on a set of drawings to turn in at the beginning of school. Sloth, who looks like a fuzzy gray log with an expressive, wide face, adores Patti, who, like Sloth, never seems in any rush. When Sloth notices she’s left her notebook, he calls to action Peccary, Boa, Capuchin, and Ocelot to give him some assistance. Slowly, of course: “Let’s. go. on. a. field. trip…” he suggests. Shirtliffe cleverly assigns tasks according to the animals’ strengths. When they arrive at Patti’s school, Peccary is great at lining up, skin-shedding Boa fits right in in the coat room, and so on. Sloth, for his part, can meditate and remain calm until he locates Patti. Lively illustrations throughout portray superfriendly animals, Sloth in particular, interacting with charmed children at a school that clearly has great liability insurance. Backmatter explains some of the behaviors of animals and people that inspired the book, ending with a useful plug for animal-rescue centers. For all its charm, however, the story stops a little short and feels lightweight overall, without adding much to the current vogue of sloths as cuddly spirit animals for the unrushed or perpetually late.

Agreeable animal fun but weightless as a too-brief visit to the zoo. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7624-9159-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Slight and contrived.

LITTLE TACO TRUCK

A little orange food truck parks in the same place every day, bringing tacos to hungry construction workers—till one morning, a falafel truck takes his spot.

Miss Falafel then brings by more of her friends, crowding out the taco truck. Little Taco Truck whines and cries, but after four days of being shut out by the bigger trucks, he finally takes the initiative. He spends the night in his former parking space, defending his territory when the other trucks arrive. The rest immediately apologize, and after some creative maneuvering, everyone fits—even the newly arrived noodle truck. Valentine’s naïve call for cooperation glosses over the very real problem of urban gentrification represented by the flood of bigger and better-equipped trucks taking over the neighborhood. When the taco truck is the only game in town, the food line consists of hard-hatted construction workers. Then, as falafel, arepa, gelato, hot dog, and gumbo trucks set up shop, professionals and hipsters start showing up. (All the customers are depicted as animals.) The author also inadvertently equates tacos with a lack of sophistication. “ ‘Hola, Miss Fal…Fal…’ Little Taco Truck tried to sound out the words on the side of the other truck.” Sadly, the truck sells Americanized crisp-shelled tacos. Even the glossary ignores the culinary versatility and cultural authenticity of the soft taco with this oversimplified and inaccurate definition: “A crispy Mexican corn pancake folded or rolled around a filling of meat, beans, and cheese.”

Slight and contrived. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6585-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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