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Disappointingly shallow.

An old, movement-averse walrus disrupts the status quo when he decides to learn ballet.

From the creator of The Rainbow Fish comes an underwhelming parable about the value of hard work in the face of closed-mindedness and tradition, set against a backdrop of ongoing environmental crises. Franz-Ferdinand, who at 42 has already surpassed the average walrus life span, lives on the east coast of Greenland, where he surreptitiously observes the rehearsals of Madame Flamenco’s troupe of flamingo ballet dancers (they have been displaced by climate change). After practicing in secret, the head bull walrus requests an audition. No one expects Franz-Ferdinand to succeed at ballet, a fact underscored by a questionable subplot in which he, in need of a “suitable piece of clothing” that isn’t “too feminine,” constructs a tutu out of literal ocean trash that fits his “big fat tummy.” Yet, despite this equation of his large body with garbage, his performance is so impressive and his speech so surprisingly “cultured” that Madame Flamenco falls “madly in love” with her new student, leading to the creation of a walrus ballet company. While the stylized illustrations successfully convey the anthropomorphized animals’ emotions via expressive faces and body language, they omit any visual evidence of walruses’ practicing (as opposed to performing) ballet, which contradicts the book’s heavy-handed message of perseverance. The lengthy text impedes the narrative, while its playful tone downplays human complicity in climate change and ocean trash and elides any context or resources for the environmental and social issues it vaguely references.

Disappointingly shallow. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4469-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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