ON BABA'S BACK

Charming illustrations with a simple story that resonates.

Koalas Koko and Baba are always together until one day Koko ventures off alone.

Much like their human child-caregiver counterparts, little Koko is always with Baba. Koko does everything—playing, bathing, even (“Oops!”) peeing—on Baba’s back, until one day, curiously eyeing some butterflies, Koko jumps off and adventures solo. Dubuc is careful to convey that the exploration is successful and also that Koko climbs right back on Baba’s back when bedtime comes. This boomerang of child independence and caregiver dependence is simply and sweetly done. Koko’s moment of joy at the freedom to explore is captured with rosy cheeks and open arms, Baba’s pride drawn to match. Caregivers will smile at all of Koko’s childlike characteristics, from the “play” that results in a ball bouncing off Baba’s head to Koko’s repeatedly nagging “There!” at the sight of the butterflies. The repetitive nature of the sentence structure makes it a perfect fit for lap reading with an infant or toddler. There are no gendered pronouns for either character. The pencil-and-watercolor illustrations give the koalas and their habitat a soft, inviting look—a fitting complement to the story. This sweet board book is sure to provide readers and little listeners with two separate yet connected takeaways.

Charming illustrations with a simple story that resonates. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-61689-912-7

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

FAMILIES BELONG

A joyful celebration.

Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

SMILE, POUT-POUT FISH

An upbeat early book on feelings with a simple storyline that little ones will respond to.

This simplified version of Diesen and Hanna’s The Pout-Pout Fish (2008) is appropriate for babies and toddlers.

Brief, rhyming text tells the story of a sullen fish cheered up with a kiss. A little pink sea creature pokes his head out of a hole in the sea bottom to give the gloomy fish some advice: “Smile, Mr. Fish! / You look so down // With your glum-glum face / And your pout-pout frown.” He explains that there’s no reason to be worried, scared, sad or mad and concludes: “How about a smooch? / And a cheer-up wish? // Now you look happy: / What a smile, Mr. Fish!” Simple and sweet, this tale offers the lesson that sometimes, all that’s needed for a turnaround in mood is some cheer and encouragement to change our perspective. The clean, uncluttered illustrations are kept simple, except for the pout-pout fish’s features, which are delightfully expressive. Little ones will easily recognize and likely try to copy the sad, scared and angry looks that cross the fish’s face.

An upbeat early book on feelings with a simple storyline that little ones will respond to. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-374-37084-8

Page Count: 12

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2014

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