A cheery run through the ABCs, with a bit of a message about lining up and awaiting one’s turn slipped in.

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NOT YET ZEBRA

As animals queue up alphabetically to have their portraits painted, pesky Zebra keeps trying to jump the line.

In exuberantly spattered watercolors, Annie, a small, redheaded white girl with an easel, invites Aardvark, Bear, and the other animals forward one at a time for broadly brushed pictures with upper- and lowercase letters (all assembled in a closing gallery on the rear endpapers). Along the way she gently but repeatedly has to push importunate Zebra to the back: “I need Gorilla and Hamster and… / What did I say? / Not yet, Zebra. Please go away!” Zebra (not unlike Mo Willems’ Pigeon, though nonverbal) turns out to be hard to discourage, but sad looks, disguises, and pushy behavior all turn out to be equally fruitless. And, when Zebra’s turn finally, finally comes, he’s nowhere to be found—having, no surprise, fallen asleep in bed. Like the young artist, budding abecedarians will be amused. There are few surprises in the lineup of animals, but the mix is a lively one, and even the animals who are observing proper order have plenty of personality on offer.

A cheery run through the ABCs, with a bit of a message about lining up and awaiting one’s turn slipped in. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-571-34288-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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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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