A likable volume with a message of empowerment for young children, wrapped in a gentle fish tale.

Aww Fishsticks

A timid little fish named Pax finds the key to confidence in this debut picture book.

In a simple setting inspired by Seneca Lake (in upstate New York), rendered in round shapes and soft colors, Mama Perch encourages her young offspring, Pax, to join the fun at a nearby waterfall. But Pax, shyly “hiding in the waterweeds,” feels too self-conscious about his swimming prowess to venture out, especially if he thinks that anyone is watching. His mother reminds him of an important phrase—“Aww, Fishsticks”—that “Pampy” (not identified, but Pax’s absent father, perhaps) would say to himself as a mantra for bravery when he felt fearful. Pax sets out for the waterfall but soon forgets his reassuring chant when all of the creatures that he encounters—assorted swimming fish, a leaping fawn, a paddling beaver, a buzzing bee, a soaring butterfly, and more—offer warnings and advice. Even their compliments throw Pax off because they remind him that he’s being observed. (A nice comic touch: three conflicting observations about Pax’s chances for success delivered by a “Smiling Frog,” a “Doubting Frog,” and a “Frowning Frog.”) What are the words that will help Pax concentrate on himself instead of on what others have to say? He can’t remember. Is it “Aww, Bubbles?” “Aww, Tadpoles?” “Aww, Minnows?” When the right words come back to him, Pax swims “like he never swam before,” realizing that “It’s what I think that matters!” The lively illustrations, along with text designed graphically for visual interest and written with wordplay to be shared and repeated (“swish,” “glub,” “buzz,” “flip,” “flap”), frame this unsubtle message with sunny appeal. The author and her collaborative illustrator add a mild layer of engagement with a seek-and-find activity: children can look for illustrations throughout the pages that match silhouettes of a squirrel, a ladybug, a leaf, a raccoon, and a bear. The book ends with photographs of the real-life flora and fauna that are featured in the story.

A likable volume with a message of empowerment for young children, wrapped in a gentle fish tale.

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9966498-0-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Siphre Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2016

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ABIYOYO RETURNS

The seemingly ageless Seeger brings back his renowned giant for another go in a tuneful tale that, like the art, is a bit sketchy, but chockful of worthy messages. Faced with yearly floods and droughts since they’ve cut down all their trees, the townsfolk decide to build a dam—but the project is stymied by a boulder that is too huge to move. Call on Abiyoyo, suggests the granddaughter of the man with the magic wand, then just “Zoop Zoop” him away again. But the rock that Abiyoyo obligingly flings aside smashes the wand. How to avoid Abiyoyo’s destruction now? Sing the monster to sleep, then make it a peaceful, tree-planting member of the community, of course. Seeger sums it up in a postscript: “every community must learn to manage its giants.” Hays, who illustrated the original (1986), creates colorful, if unfinished-looking, scenes featuring a notably multicultural human cast and a towering Cubist fantasy of a giant. The song, based on a Xhosa lullaby, still has that hard-to-resist sing-along potential, and the themes of waging peace, collective action, and the benefits of sound ecological practices are presented in ways that children will both appreciate and enjoy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-689-83271-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2001

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A DOG NAMED SAM

A book that will make young dog-owners smile in recognition and confirm dogless readers' worst suspicions about the mayhem caused by pets, even winsome ones. Sam, who bears passing resemblance to an affable golden retriever, is praised for fetching the family newspaper, and goes on to fetch every other newspaper on the block. In the next story, only the children love Sam's swimming; he is yelled at by lifeguards and fishermen alike when he splashes through every watering hole he can find. Finally, there is woe to the entire family when Sam is bored and lonely for one long night. Boland has an essential message, captured in both both story and illustrations of this Easy-to-Read: Kids and dogs belong together, especially when it's a fun-loving canine like Sam. An appealing tale. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8037-1530-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1996

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