Unquestionably warmhearted, but its emphasis on zoological facts somewhat undermines its whimsy.

XANDER'S PANDA PARTY

As a member of a rare species, Xander the Panda runs into some evolutionary conflicts when faced with the eternal quandary of whom to invite to his party.

As pandas are thin on the ground, he decides to expand the guest list to bears. This plan is upset by a bear look-alike, Koala, who turns out to be a marsupial, not a bear. Even broadening the invitation to all mammals doesn’t please everyone; Rhinoceros won’t come without his bird, so Xander invites all the birds. Crocodile adds to Xander’s stress by insisting that reptiles, being a prehistoric bird-related species, should be invited too. The solution to Xander’s dilemma comes from tiny Amanda Salamander, who suggests inviting all creatures, which (surprise) includes humans too! The party is a roaring success, and a nice girl panda shows up at the right moment to keep Xander company. Phelan’s pencil-and-watercolor vignettes are imaginative and charming, making the most of the story’s humorous potential. Though a solid addition to the popular category of books about inclusiveness, the tale, like Xander’s party, feels a little too-hastily put together. Children who chuckle at the sight of Xander lowering an invitation into the lion’s zoo enclosure may find themselves wondering how prey animals will fare at Xander’s shindig, for instance. Park includes a final note about pandas and species preservation.

Unquestionably warmhearted, but its emphasis on zoological facts somewhat undermines its whimsy. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-547-55865-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 26, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Instills a sense of well-being in youngsters while encouraging them to explore the natural world.

YOU ARE HOME WITH ME

This reassuring picture book exemplifies how parents throughout the animal kingdom make homes for their offspring.

The narrative is written from the point of view of a parent talking to their child: “If you were a beaver, I would gnaw on trees with my teeth to build a cozy lodge for us to sleep in during the day.” Text appears in big, easy-to-read type, with the name of the creature in boldface. Additional facts about the animal appear in a smaller font, such as: “Beavers have transparent eyelids to help them see under water.” The gathering of land, air, and water animals includes a raven, a flying squirrel, and a sea lion. “Home” might be a nest, a den, or a burrow. One example, of a blue whale who has homes in the north and south (ocean is implied), will help children stretch the concept into feeling at home in the larger world. Illustrations of the habitats have an inviting luminosity. Mature and baby animals are realistically depicted, although facial features appear to have been somewhat softened, perhaps to appeal to young readers. The book ends with the comforting scene of a human parent and child silhouetted in the welcoming lights of the house they approach: “Wherever you may be, you will always have a home with me.”

Instills a sense of well-being in youngsters while encouraging them to explore the natural world. (Informational picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63217-224-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little Bigfoot/Sasquatch

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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