A rare miss for Long and Otis

READ REVIEW

AN OTIS CHRISTMAS

From the Otis series

As the title indicates, the little tractor Otis celebrates Christmas.

Christmas is always exciting, but this one is “even more special,” as a baby foal is due. That snowy Christmas Eve is made more thrilling yet when the farmer gives Otis his very first Christmas present: a new horn. Otis can barely contain himself. But in the middle of the night, he awakes to hear the sounds of consternation in the pregnant mare’s stall: “Something [is] very wrong.” Unfortunately, the snow is falling fast, and the stable hand sent to fetch Doc Baker promptly fishtails into a snowbank. It’s Otis to the rescue again. Off he goes, “putt puff puttedy chuff,” through the woods (where he is briefly lost) to Doc Baker’s, where he uses his new horn to sound the alarm. Doctor and tractor make it back just in time. While Otis is a charming character, and the Christmas theme has great appeal, this is a rather lackluster outing for the sturdy tractor. Long’s heroic art is at its best in scenes with people and animals, his Lawson-esque line investing characters with emotion and movement. The rendition of Otis’ journey is rather less effective; only the most credulous of children will accept the sight of Otis inching his way down a massive, snow-covered tree trunk. The text likewise underwhelms, with its overreliance on exclamation points and treacly delivery.

A rare miss for Long and Otis . (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-399-16395-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug.

THE HUG

What to do when you’re a prickly animal hankering for a hug? Why, find another misfit animal also searching for an embrace!

Sweet but “tricky to hug” little Hedgehog is down in the dumps. Wandering the forest, Hedgehog begs different animals for hugs, but each rejects them. Readers will giggle at their panicked excuses—an evasive squirrel must suddenly count its three measly acorns; a magpie begins a drawn-out song—but will also be indignant on poor hedgehog’s behalf. Hedgehog has the appealingly pink-cheeked softness typical of Dunbar’s art, and the gentle watercolors are nonthreatening, though she also captures the animals’ genuine concern about being poked. A wise owl counsels the dejected hedgehog that while the prickles may frighten some, “there’s someone for everyone.” That’s when Hedgehog spots a similarly lonely tortoise, rejected due to its “very hard” shell but perfectly matched for a spiky new friend. They race toward each other until the glorious meeting, marked with swoony peach swirls and overjoyed grins. At this point, readers flip the book to hear the same gloomy tale from the tortoise’s perspective until it again culminates in that joyous hug, a book turn that’s made a pleasure with thick creamy paper and solid binding.

Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-571-34875-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Good bedtime reading.

POLAR BEAR ISLAND

Only polar bears are allowed on Polar Bear Island, until Kirby, a friendly, creative penguin, arrives on the scene.

On the verso of the first double-page spread, large white lettering proclaims against an azure sky: “Polar Bear Island was peaceful and predictable. Parker, the mayor, planned to keep it that way.” Below, Parker—paint can in left paw—can be seen facing his sign: “Welcome to Polar Bear Island. No Others Allowed.” On the recto, Kirby floats into view on an ice floe, with hat, scarf, and overstuffed suitcase. When Kirby arrives, Parker grudgingly allows her an overnight stay. However, she soon proves her worth to the other bears; she has invented Flipper Slippers, which keep extremities warm and reverse from skates to snowshoes. Now Kirby is allowed to stay and help the bears make their own Flipper Slippers. When her family shows up with more inventions, Parker feels compelled to give them a week. (Presumably, the penguins have made the 12,430-mile-trip from the South Pole to the North Pole, characterized merely as “a long journey.”) A minor crisis permanently changes Parker’s attitudes about exclusivity. The text is accessible and good fun to read aloud. The weakness of the ostensible theme of granting welcome to newcomers lies in the fact that all the newcomers are immediately, obviously useful to the bears. The cartoonlike, scratchboard-ish graphics are lighthearted and full of anthropomorphic touches.

Good bedtime reading. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2870-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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