It’s an unassuming, sweet story, and sometimes that’s enough.

HAL AND THE VERY LONG RACE

A timid hedgehog named Hal runs an impromptu race with his group of animal friends.

Ava, a spunky sheep, comes up with the idea for the race, with a course going uphill and then curving down to the finish line. Hal is worried about his short legs and slow speed, and he’s afraid the others will laugh at him if he comes in last. He reluctantly joins in and predictably falls far behind the other runners. At the top of the hill, Hal curls up in a ball and says a short prayer asking God to “help me be proud of the things I am good at.” By curling up in a ball, Hal rolls downhill to the finish line, coming in second. The short, simple story emphasizes accepting and overcoming both physical and emotional fear, and the final line is a succinct, refreshing alternative to the conventional resolution, in which the main character wins first prize. Hal just “did his best and it was enough.” Bold, cartoon-style illustrations feature appealing, bug-eyed animals and commendable attention to matching the characters’ positions within compositions to their featured order in the text. The brief prayer as part of the plot makes this most suitable for libraries in religious settings or for families who wish to integrate religion into family reading. Companion title Happy Birthday, Ava! publishes simultaneously.

It’s an unassuming, sweet story, and sometimes that’s enough. (author’s note) (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: May 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5064-1789-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sparkhouse

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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A sweet, colorful start for a Christian spiritual journey.

BECAUSE GOD LOVES ME

A cheery child gives thanks to God.

“When I see a rainbow / High up in the sky / I say a little prayer of thanks, / And here’s the reason why: // Because God loves me!” This board book’s focus is the comforting notion that God loves all his children, and no matter what, he will always look out for them. The text follows an ABCB rhyme scheme, breaking after every stanza to repeat the phrase “Because God loves me!” The small, light-skinned child has spiky brown hair and wears a dress; both the child and a chubby accompanying dog are appealingly illustrated with a bright, simple color palette and scratchy lines that appear to have been made with colored pencil. God is the only name given for the deity, implying a primarily Christian audience. The book’s message is clear, and its construction is sturdy, suiting this well to parents who are beginning to have conversations with their little readers regarding their beliefs.

A sweet, colorful start for a Christian spiritual journey. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-58925-237-0

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2016

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Though it’s fairly unoriginal at its core, this story’s charismatic star will have appeal in dog-loving households.

LATKE, THE LUCKY DOG

A rescued dog chosen as a Hanukkah present at an animal shelter relates his good luck as he learns to adapt to his new family and home.

Zoe and Zach welcome their new pet, a playful, medium-sized, golden-brown dog, and name him Latke (he’s exactly the color of one). The newest member of the family assumes all the celebratory aspects of the eight-day Hanukkah holiday are just for him and innocently creates a mild disturbance on each night. Latke eats the sufganiyot and latkes, rips open presents, chews up the dreidels and candles, slobbers all over the chocolate gelt and knocks the bowl of applesauce over. With each mishap, Zoe and Zach find a way to forgive, letting the curious new dog know he is very fortunate indeed. Ever remorseful, Latke finally accepts his own gift of a chew toy and understands he is one lucky dog to be part of a great family. Latke relates his own story, folding his innocent misdeeds into the basic structure of the eight nights of remembrance. Simple, childlike gouache scenes favor the star of the story, a sweet and personable mutt sporting floppy black ears against a brown happy face. He has rather more personality than the overall presentation, which cannot shed its inherent didacticism.

Though it’s fairly unoriginal at its core, this story’s charismatic star will have appeal in dog-loving households. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7613-9038-1

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Kar-Ben

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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