A funny-enough joke doesn’t make a story that sticks.

An oft-heard cautionary statement comes true.

Wendell, who’s depicted with brown skin and straight black hair in the rather garish art, is a rule follower. “He never once disobeyed his parents,” reads the text that introduces the protagonist. The accompanying picture shows him equipped with every imaginable type of protective gear as he uses a skateboard to walk his dog. In an uncharacteristic moment of incredibly mild mischief-making, Wendell makes a silly face in the mirror, and (you guessed it) his “face froze like THAT!” Cox’s illustration shows Wendell facing readers, one eye screwed shut and his teeth unnaturally protruding over opposite corners of his top and bottom lips. His parents (also people of color) try to fix his face with a rolling pin and a screwdriver, to no avail. In fact, nothing can seem to thaw his face, and his speech is comically distorted for several pages. Ultimately, it’s his own acceptance of his state and his parents’ unconditional love that cause him to transform: “We love you…Just the way you are,” they say, and: “PF-F-F-F-F-F-F-F-F-F-F-F-T!…The pressure Wendell felt to be perfect and to follow the rules all the time—it let go.” With this letting go, Wendell’s face transforms back to his original appearance. The resolution is both heavy-handed and at odds with his parents’ easy acceptance—why did he feel so much pressure in the first place?

A funny-enough joke doesn’t make a story that sticks. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7624-9347-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Running Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020



Warm but underdone.

In this picture book from actor Gyllenhaal and his partner, Caruso, a child and his uncle bond on a fantastic journey.

Leo, an avid dancer, is dismayed when Uncle Mo visits—he’s in town for a “rubber band convention.” Illustrations show both with wavy brown hair and light tan skin. Not only does Leo think his uncle is rather dull, he’s also leery of Uncle Mo’s many rules. A rather abrupt narrative shift occurs when the pair inexplicably drive into another dimension. Here they encounter Great-Aunt Gloria (who is very tall and presents Black) and Uncle Munkle Carbunkle (who is very short and light-skinned), who guide them through the Secret Society of Aunts & Uncles. Unimpressed with Uncle Mo, Great-Aunt Gloria says he must take a quiz on “Auntieology and Uncleology.” After several wrong answers, Uncle Mo has a final chance at redemption: He must state his nephew’s favorite activity. When Leo springs into action to dance for his clueless uncle, a mishap leaves him mortified and un-bespectacled. Enter Uncle Mo to save the day by using a rubber band to secure Leo’s glasses. While Santat’s energetic illustrations do much to clarify the narrative, they can’t fully make up for the disjointed storytelling—it’s never clear why the two have entered this dimension or why Leo is suddenly so eager to help Uncle Mo. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Warm but underdone. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781250776990

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023


A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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