Deftly capitalizing on children’s predilection for imaginative play, this book neatly packs a solid informational punch.

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OLIVER'S OTTER PHASE

Protagonist Oliver, a biracial boy, decides he is an otter.

During a trip to the aquarium, young Oliver delights in the antics of the playful otters and decides to become one, too. He tries in many ways to be otter-ish, though his parents take a neutral stand. When Oliver slaps a slice of bologna on his chest, Mom (who’s black) doesn’t understand but listens to him explain that this is how real otters eat. When Dad (who’s white) takes him food shopping, Oliver offers him string, pretending it’s kelp, so Dad can tie him the way otter moms care for their young when they must hunt. Dad gently replies that he is not an otter’s mother. Oliver’s imagination continues until one antic backfires and he is glad to be a boy again, except in one endearing way. Connor’s tender story captures a young child’s vivid imagination, but it is also a teacher’s dream, incorporating facts about otters in “snapshots” on each page, augmented by detailed science facts and activities in the backmatter, with permission to print. Jones’ delightful, expressive, and smooth-edged digital illustrations are an apt match with the text and add humor while also sliding in still more otter facts. A Spanish-language edition, Nico: Nutria por un día, is also available.

Deftly capitalizing on children’s predilection for imaginative play, this book neatly packs a solid informational punch. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60718-451-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Arbordale

Review Posted Online: Nov. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2017

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For many readers, uneasy optics will take the fun out of this romp.

LLAMA UNLEASHES THE ALPACALYPSE

From the Llama Book series

Llamas, alpacas, and clones—oh my!

In this sequel to Llama Destroys the World (2019), hapless Llama once again wreaks unintentional, large-scale havoc—but this time, he (sort of) saves the day, too. After making an epic breakfast (and epic mess), Llama decides to build a machine that will enable him to avoid cleaning up. No, not a vacuum or dishwasher: It’s a machine that Llama uses to clone his friend “of impeccable tidiness,” Alpaca, in order to create an “army of cleaners.” Cream-colored Llama and light-brown Alpaca, both male, are pear shaped with short, stubby legs, bland expressions, and bulging eyes. Paired with the cartoon illustrations, the text’s comic timing shines: “Llama invited Alpaca over for lunch. / Llama invited Alpaca into the Replicator 3000. / And then, Llama invited disaster.” Soon the house is full of smiling Alpacas in purple scalloped aprons, single-mindedly cleaning—and, as one might expect, things don’t go as planned. Mealtimes (i.e. “second lunch” and dinner) offer opportunities for the “alpacalypse” to emerge from Llama’s house into the wider world. Everyday life grinds to a halt as the myriad Alpacas bearing mops, dusters, and plungers continue their cleaning crusade with no signs of stopping. That is, until the Alpacas realize they are hungry….It’s all very funny, but the sight of the paler-coated Llama exploiting the darker-coated Alpaca, for whom nothing brings “more joy than cleaning,” is an uncomfortable one.

For many readers, uneasy optics will take the fun out of this romp. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-22285-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A bland also-ran trailing a large litter of like-themed pups.

WOLF PUPS JOIN THE PACK

From the First Discoveries series

A photo album of young wolves running, playing, and growing through their first year.

Light on factual details, the uncredited text largely runs to vague observations along the lines of the fact that “young wolves need to rest every now and then” or that packs “differ in size. Some are large and have many wolves, while others are small with only a few.” The chief draws here are the big, color, stock photos, which show pups of diverse ages and species, singly or in groups—running, posing alertly with parents or other adult wolves, eating (regurgitated food only, and that not visible), howling, patrolling, and snoozing as a seasonal round turns green meadows to snowy landscapes. In a notably perfunctory insertion squeezed onto the final spread, a wildlife biologist from the American Museum of Natural History introduces himself and describes his research work—all with animals other than wolves. Budding naturalists should have no trouble running down more nourishing fare, from Seymour Simon’s Wolves (1993) to Jonathan London’s Seasons of Little Wolf (illustrated by Jon Van Zyle, 2014) and on. Baby Dolphin’s First Swim follows the same formula even down to profiling exactly the same wildlife biologist.

A bland also-ran trailing a large litter of like-themed pups. (Informational picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2237-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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