Swipe this one off the shelf for a belly-laugh–inducing beach read.


Smug Seagull meets its match.

The titular avian character is smug because it’s “the best snack swiper from shore to shore,” if it does say so itself—and it does. Repeatedly. No beachgoer’s snack is safe from its swiping ways, and it’s darn proud of that fact. “I got my name in lights!” it brags, pointing to a lamppost sign reading: “ATTENTION PLEASE DO NOT FEED THE SEAGULLS.” And “I got my name in the sky,” it continues, flying near a plane pulling a banner that advertises “The Seagull Grill.” The comics-influenced storytelling, with sunny-hued panels and speech balloons, is ideal for the text’s cheeky humor, which owes something of a debt to Mo Willems’ Pigeon books. Smug Seagull gets its comeuppance not from a bus driver, but when a tiny crab swipes back a french fry the gull had swiped from the crustacean. A slapstick chase ensues, complete with underwater antics, and a decidedly less smug Smug Seagull emerges from the sea, humbled, dismayed, and french fry–less. Things take a turn for the worse when it realizes beachgoers have found ways to prevent it from swiping their snacks. “I’VE LOST MY SWIPE TO A CRAB!!!” Smug Seagull wails. But all is not lost. The crab shows the gulls how to endear themselves to “tiny humans” and still get plenty of snacks.

Swipe this one off the shelf for a belly-laugh–inducing beach read. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-52319-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)


A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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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. 2, 2021

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