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Inconsistent writing combines with sweet illustrations to make this a nice-enough book.

With the help of woodland creatures, Mother Mouse searches for a name for her new baby that sounds just right.

Boyd’s sweetly illustrated field mice and their forest friends greet Mother Mouse and her new baby with gifts. As each animal and gift arrives, Mother Mouse wonders if the name of the gift might also become a name for baby. After listening all day, she finally settles on a name made up of different words she’s heard throughout. Boyd includes some nice vocabulary (“maidenhair fern,” “milkweed pods”) along with some nice literary touches. Most of the animals’ names are alliterative or rhyming, such as Sadie Snail, Kiki Cat, Merle Squirrel, and even the baby’s ultimate name itself. These are nice additions for younger readers. The illustrations have a lovely, consistent color palette, evoking spring and new life. The daytime images feature a clean, cream-colored background, while the night is a deep blue, making a nice visual to mark the transition. There’s a beautiful two-page spread in which readers meet Moon, who asks about the baby’s name; in response, Mother Mouse says simply, “I’m listening for one.” This lovely moment stands out above the rest, which sometimes feature awkward internal rhymes or rhyming couplets, but only inconsistently. The final page ends the book abruptly, with nothing to signify an end to Mother Mouse’s day or the story itself.

Inconsistent writing combines with sweet illustrations to make this a nice-enough book. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-1419-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes.

A lift-the-flap book gives the littlest trick-or-treaters some practice identifying partygoers under their costumes.

Little Blue Truck and his buddy Toad are off to a party, and they invite readers (and a black cat) along for the ride: “ ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ / says Little Blue. / ‘It’s Halloween!’ / You come, too.” As they drive, they are surprised (and joined) by many of their friends in costume. “Who’s that in a tutu / striking a pose / up on the tiniest / tips of her toes? / Under the mask / who do you see?” Lifting the flap unmasks a friend: “ ‘Quack!’ says the duck. / ‘It’s me! It’s me!’ ” The sheep is disguised as a clown, the cow’s a queen, the pig’s a witch, the hen and her chick are pirates, and the horse is a dragon. Not to be left out, Little Blue has a costume, too. The flaps are large and sturdy, and enough of the animals’ characteristic features are visible under and around the costumes that little ones will be able to make successful guesses even on the first reading. Lovely curvy shapes and autumn colors fade to dusky blues as night falls, and children are sure to notice the traditional elements of a Halloween party: apple bobbing, lit jack-o’-lanterns, and punch and treats.

Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-77253-3

Page Count: 16

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable.

You think you know shapes? Animals? Blend them together, and you might see them both a little differently!

What a mischievous twist on a concept book! With wordplay and a few groan-inducing puns, Neal creates connections among animals and shapes that are both unexpected and so seemingly obvious that readers might wonder why they didn’t see them all along. Of course, a “lazy turtle” meeting an oval would create the side-splitting combo of a “SLOW-VAL.” A dramatic page turn transforms a deeply saturated, clean-lined green oval by superimposing a head and turtle shell atop, with watery blue ripples completing the illusion. Minimal backgrounds and sketchy, impressionistic detailing keep the focus right on the zany animals. Beginning with simple shapes, the geometric forms become more complicated as the book advances, taking readers from a “soaring bird” that meets a triangle to become a “FLY-ANGLE” to a “sleepy lion” nonagon “YAWN-AGON.” Its companion text, Animal Colors, delves into color theory, this time creating entirely hybrid animals, such as the “GREEN WHION” with maned head and whale’s tail made from a “blue whale and a yellow lion.” It’s a compelling way to visualize color mixing, and like Animal Shapes, it’s got verve. Who doesn’t want to shout out that a yellow kangaroo/green moose blend is a “CHARTREUSE KANGAMOOSE”?

Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0534-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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