A treat of a birthday picture book.

A PIECE OF CAKE

Bringing his friend a birthday surprise isn’t exactly a piece of cake for Mouse.

Mouse bakes a delicious birthday cake for his friend, Little Bird, but as he takes the walk to deliver it to Little Bird’s house, various animals along the way entice him to share pieces with them. In return, they offer him miscellaneous tokens of thanks. He feels bad when he arrives at Little Bird’s house with a cork from Chicken, a wire from Squirrel, a butterfly net from Bear and a flyswatter from Cow, but Little Bird has a big plan. It turns out each animal who was eager to swap something for cake needs something that another animal traded. By fulfilling these needs, Little Bird and Mouse obtain ingredients to make a new cake—milk from Cow, honey from Bear, nuts from Squirrel and eggs from Chicken. The fun comes with the surprising solutions that Little Bird and Mouse offer: They don’t give Bear a flyswatter to shoo away the bees swarming near the honey he’s collected, for example; they give him the cork to plug up the hive. (Here’s hoping Bear removes it when he leaves, or that’s the last honey he’ll be collecting.) Digitally colored pencil illustrations lack the sketchy, expressive charm of Pham’s Big Sister, Little Sister (2005) and instead adopt a flat, humorous cartoonish quality that’s reminiscent of some of illustrator Peter Brown’s work.

A treat of a birthday picture book. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-199264-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way.

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THE PIGEON HAS TO GO TO SCHOOL!

From the Pigeon series

All the typical worries and excuses kids have about school are filtered through Willems’ hysterical, bus-loving Pigeon.

Told mostly in speech balloons, the bird’s monologue will have kids (and their caregivers) in stitches at Pigeon’s excuses. From already knowing everything (except whatever question readers choose to provide in response to “Go ahead—ask me a question. / Any question!”) to fearing learning too much (“My head might pop off”), Pigeon’s imagination has run wild. Readers familiar with Pigeon will recognize the muted, matte backgrounds that show off the bird’s shenanigans so well. As in previous outings, Willems varies the size of the pigeon on the page to help communicate emotion, the bird teeny small on the double-page spread that illustrates the confession that “I’m… / scared.” And Pigeon’s eight-box rant about all the perils of school (“The unknown stresses me out, dude”) is marvelously followed by the realization (complete with lightbulb thought bubble) that school is the place for students to practice, with experts, all those skills they don’t yet have. But it is the ending that is so Willems, so Pigeon, and so perfect. Pigeon’s last question is “Well, HOW am I supposed to get there, anyway!?!” Readers will readily guess both the answer and Pigeon’s reaction.

Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04645-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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A terrific choice for the preschool crowd.

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TIME FOR SCHOOL, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Little Blue Truck learns that he can be as important as the big yellow school bus.

Little Blue Truck is driving along the country road early one morning when he and driver friend Toad come across a big, yellow, shiny school bus. The school bus is friendly, and so are her animal passengers, but when Little Blue Truck wishes aloud he could do an important job like hers, the school bus says only a bus of her size and features can do this job. Little Blue Truck continues along, a bit envious, and finds Piggy crying by the side of the road, having missed the bus. Little Blue tells Piggy to climb in and takes a creative path to the school—one the bus couldn’t navigate—and with an adventurous spirit, gets Piggy there right on time. The simple, rhyming text opens the story with a sweet, fresh, old-fashioned tone and continues with effortlessly rhythmical lines throughout. Little Blue is a brave, helpful, and hopeful character young readers will root for. Adults will feel a rush of nostalgia and delight in sharing this story with children as the animated vehicles and animals in innocent, colorful countryside scenes evoke wholesome character traits and values of growth, grit, and self-acceptance. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A terrific choice for the preschool crowd. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-41224-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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