Barely marginal



From the Jack's Farm series

Despite the obvious inspiration of “The House that Jack Built,” this text does not accumulate but rather rhythmically recounts bee-related activities.

“This is the golden honey, / made by the thousands of busy bees, / that work inside the dark shelter / that stands in the yard. // And this is Jack, the daddy, / who keeps bees as a hobby, / gathering honey from the bee box / that stands in the yard.” The bees pollinate, gather nectar, and make honey; Jack harvests the honey and makes beeswax candles; his family eats the honey. While bees are a hot topic, this book falls short in several ways. With rhythm that never takes off and a narrative that meanders between hive and house, there is no real sense of continuity from blossom to table. The cheery cartoon art, heavy on honey yellow, is likewise unsuccessful. The bees themselves, with exaggerated proboscises and elongated, dully colored abdomens, look uncomfortably like mosquitoes, and they are depicted carrying pollen on all their legs instead of only their back two. The hive, described in the text as a modern set of boxes, has the profile of an old-fashioned straw one and is, as depicted, highly unlikely to be found in any actual bee yard. Companion title The Cow that Jack Milked is rather more coherent in narrative but equally halting in its rhythms. The family members in both books (they appear to be different) all have beige skin.

Barely marginal . (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60905-611-7

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Blue Apple

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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A $16.99 Mother’s Day card for cat lovers.


The team of Costain and Lovšin (Daddies are Awesome, 2016) gives moms their due.

Rhyming verses tell of all the ways moms are amazing: “Mommies are magic. / They kiss away troubles… // …find gold in the sunlight / and rainbows in bubbles.” Moms are joyful—the best playmates. They are also fearless and will protect and soothe if you are scared. Clever moms know just what to do when you’re sad, sporty moms run and leap and climb, while tender moms cuddle. “My mommy’s so special. / I tell her each day… // … just how much I love her / in every way!” Whereas dads were illustrated with playful pups and grown-up dogs in the previous book, moms are shown as cats with their kittens in myriad colors, sizes, and breeds. Lovšin’s cats look as though they are smiling at each other in their fun, though several spreads are distractingly cut in half by the gutter. However delightful the presentation—the verse rolls fairly smoothly, and the cats are pretty cute—the overall effect is akin to a cream puff’s: very sweet and insubstantial.

A $16.99 Mother’s Day card for cat lovers. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62779-651-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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There are better fish in the board-book sea.


From the Science for Toddlers series

Dramatic stock photos and die-cut tabs are the distinguishing features of this board book.

“Did you know that there are over 400 types of sharks?” is an intriguing opening, but readers primed to find out about those specific types may be surprised that the shark on the facing page is not identified. Instead, the picture of a shark above a school of fish gives a sense of its size. Smaller text explains that shark skeletons are made of cartilage, not bone. Layered die cuts that accentuate the nose and mouth of nine different sharks on the right-hand pages invite children to turn the pages quickly. White type printed against various contrasting colors on the left-hand pages offers tidbits of information but is unlikely to make young children pause long enough to be read the text. A picture of almost 40 sharks swimming together seems to contradict the accompanying explanation that many sharks are endangered. A final full-color spread speaks of sharks’ important role in maintaining ocean balance and includes a picture of a grandfatherly shark scientist. The back cover is devoted to information for adults. While intriguing and scientifically credible, the wordy text and seemingly arbitrary factoids are well beyond the attention spans of all but the most avid young fans of the species.

There are better fish in the board-book sea. (Board book. 3-4)

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2128-8

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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