VAMPENGUIN

Impeccable integration of text and illustrations makes for a book readers can really sink their teeth into.

When the Dracula family visits the zoo, a surprising swap makes for a silly adventure.

This is a true picture book, with text and illustrations so seamlessly woven together that one won’t stand alone without the other. While at the penguin exhibit, the youngest member of the Dracula family discovers their resemblance to a similarly sized and colored emperor penguin. The two switch places, and readers are the only ones who catch this detail; the Draculas continue on their way through the zoo without ever noticing. This little inside joke succeeds thanks to Cummins’ striking and strategic palette. Using black and white with shades of aqua, mustard yellow, and pale pink, she makes it easy to see how the littlest Dracula camouflages with the penguins. Little readers will love pointing out all of the things the text intentionally omits, like the animals that notice the penguin touring around in the Draculas’ stroller. Cummins uses classic vampire tropes in a way that lands right with the preschool crowd: They frown when they should be smiling and hang upside down, for example. The Draculas all have truly paper-white skin; other zoo visitors and its employees are racially diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Impeccable integration of text and illustrations makes for a book readers can really sink their teeth into. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6698-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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

LOVE FROM THE CRAYONS

As ephemeral as a valentine.

Daywalt and Jeffers’ wandering crayons explore love.

Each double-page spread offers readers a vision of one of the anthropomorphic crayons on the left along with the statement “Love is [color].” The word love is represented by a small heart in the appropriate color. Opposite, childlike crayon drawings explain how that color represents love. So, readers learn, “love is green. / Because love is helpful.” The accompanying crayon drawing depicts two alligators, one holding a recycling bin and the other tossing a plastic cup into it, offering readers two ways of understanding green. Some statements are thought-provoking: “Love is white. / Because sometimes love is hard to see,” reaches beyond the immediate image of a cat’s yellow eyes, pink nose, and black mouth and whiskers, its white face and body indistinguishable from the paper it’s drawn on, to prompt real questions. “Love is brown. / Because sometimes love stinks,” on the other hand, depicted by a brown bear standing next to a brown, squiggly turd, may provoke giggles but is fundamentally a cheap laugh. Some of the color assignments have a distinctly arbitrary feel: Why is purple associated with the imagination and pink with silliness? Fans of The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) hoping for more clever, metaliterary fun will be disappointed by this rather syrupy read.

As ephemeral as a valentine. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-9268-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2021

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