A brassy, assertive fellow—young readers in the middle of their own power struggles will relate.

READ REVIEW

TOUGH TUG

A tugboat’s size and might are easy to anthropomorphize; add this personified puffer to the mix.

Tough Tug is built near Seattle, made of strong steel welded together and adorned with a fresh coat of bright red paint. Wide googly eyes and a determined smile complete the look. On launch day, Tough Tug triumphantly flashes forward and backward, twirling and swirling through the water. Older tugboats (distinguished variously by mustaches, glasses, and eye patches) grumble at the youngster’s bravado. “Push and pull is what tugs do. Practice THAT.” Tough Tug’s first job is to tow a barge to Alaska. Rhythmic mantras churn across the surface of the water in bold navy letters: “Ready, steady. / Steady, ready. // Chug and tug. / Tug and chug.” But Tough Tug is overeager and challenges Arctic Tug to a race. The thrum changes to “Race and run! / Run and race!” Arctic Tug is first to Sitka, but while crossing the open ocean to Anchorage, the older tug gets into trouble. It’s Tough Tug to the rescue! McClurkan’s digital paintings look quite modern, but there is a feel to his foamy waves that recalls the mid-20th-century harbor of Little Toot. The anthropomorphized boats have plenty of personality, and readers who study the expressions on the container ships will be rewarded. An author’s note explains this was inspired by a true story of one tug rescuing another boat from a competing tugboat company.

A brassy, assertive fellow—young readers in the middle of their own power struggles will relate. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5039-5098-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations.

I BELIEVE I CAN

Diversity is the face of this picture book designed to inspire confidence in children.

Fans of Byers and Bobo’s I Am Enough (2018) will enjoy this book that comes with a universal message of self-acceptance. A line of children practices ballet at the barre; refreshingly, two of the four are visibly (and adorably) pudgy. Another group tends a couple of raised beds; one of them wears hijab. Two more children coax a trepidatious friend down a steep slide. Further images, of children pretending to be pirates, dragons, mimes, playing superhero and soccer, and cooking, are equally endearing, but unfortunately they don’t add enough heft to set the book apart from other empowerment books for children. Though the illustrations shine, the text remains pedagogic and bland. Clichés abound: “When I believe in myself, there’s simply nothing I can’t do”; “Sometimes I am right, and sometimes I am wrong. / But even when I make mistakes, I learn from them to make me strong.” The inclusion of children with varying abilities, religions, genders, body types, and racial presentations creates an inviting tone that makes the book palatable. It’s hard to argue with the titular sentiment, but this is not the only book of its ilk on the shelf.

Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266713-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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