Avast, mateys! Here be treasure.

Rodents dressed like Captain Hook seek dessert.

Being tossed through stormy seas doesn’t bring these intrepid pie-rats to their knees, and even when there are no pies to be eaten, these scurvy dogs won’t be beaten. Yes, a period-costumed rat-crew mans (rodents?) a ship with an enormous spoon for a figurehead. They clutch oversize cutlery instead of cutlasses; a spoon and pie server stand in for skull-and-crossbones on the captain’s cocked hat. Their refrain, shouted out from the poop deck, main deck, ratlines, and lookout, is simply “PIE, PIE, PIE, PIE!” While gazing at clouds that resemble pies, they yell out their favorite flavors: “Pumpkin, apple, that one’s cherry / Plum, pecan, a slice of berry.” Undeterred by a typhoon, they spy a “dessert-ed island,” swim ashore, and trek through a Candy Land–esque world. Alas, a troupe of “scallywags” (aka hamsters) has somehow eaten every last pie: The tins hold only crumbs. Preparing to fight (though there’s no prize now), the riled rodents luckily spot another island feature: hillocks of sumptuous cake. Surprise, surprise, they dive in; “pie-rats aren’t that picky.” The puns, rhymes, and wave-rocked rhythms will please many, and for in-lap or solo readers the thrills are enhanced by colorful, cartoonish illustrations with lots of details to notice: the meringue moon, red crabs, pie-shaped clouds, and more.

Avast, mateys! Here be treasure. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 12, 2024

ISBN: 9780593203286

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024


Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021


A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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