CHARLIE CHOOSES

Choose this one, for sure.

An indecisive child is chosen.

Poor Charlie is an anxious little boy. He can’t make even small decisions about things like ice cream and underwear, never mind choosing the present he wants for his birthday. Peacock’s text humorously conveys Charlie’s worries about making the wrong choices without ever stooping to poke fun while Slater’s cartoon art adopts a retro style that makes the picture book feel somehow familiar. A sleepless, wide-eyed Charlie lying in bed uncertain whether he wants the light on or off will elicit sympathy. When Charlie finally does decide that a pet dog would be the perfect birthday present, he confronts his biggest conundrum yet: which pup to pick at the animal shelter? This is where Slater’s illustrations truly shine, with depictions of a range of dog breeds that seem like a mashup of Sandra Boynton’s and Christian Robinson’s styles. In a pitch-perfect ending, the perfect pup chooses Charlie, relieving him of the need to make a decision and giving him a companion who helps ease his worries from that point on. Charlie has light-brown skin and a shock of brown hair; neither he nor any of the other racially diverse children who populate this book seem to have any parents, nor any need of them—a whimsical detail that adds appeal.

Choose this one, for sure. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1727-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nosy Crow

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

CARPENTER'S HELPER

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

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Safe to creep on by.

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2021

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