No matter where your valentine is, skip.

I LOVE MY TEXAS VALENTINE

Another holiday joins the publisher’s series of state-specific books.

As with the Halloween-themed The Spooky Express Texas (2017), though, this one is neither specific enough to engage Texans nor fascinating/informative enough to engage those outside the Lone Star State. (The series includes books for 24 states and Canada, as well as the all-purpose I Love My Valentine.) While almost every spread points out a specific city or landmark, the illustrations are generic, and taken out of context, most will be nigh unrecognizable. The line breaks (and meter) in the rhyming verses may make it difficult to read aloud, and the arbitrarily capped words are distracting. Two children in a canoe (it’s tethered, but they are sans life jackets) beside Padre Island illustrate “You’re my SWEETIE, / my dear, my SMILE / and my laughter. / You’re my PLAYMATE for always, / and my JOY ever after.” This last includes some concepts that may go over the heads of the book’s target audience. The digital artwork is superbright, employing valentine colors, and it features romantic animal couples as well as a racially diverse bunch of kids. While the kids are enjoying each other’s company, the hearts and butterflies between them (all but two seem to be male/female pairs) emphasize romantic love rather than the more age-appropriate basics of being a good friend. Every spread save one features at least one child of color, and the final spread includes a child in a wheelchair.

No matter where your valentine is, skip. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4926-5981-5

Page Count: 20

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

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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Young readers will hunt out this enjoyable crowd pleaser again and again.

WE'RE GOING ON A GOON HUNT

Hunt for a bear? That’s so yesterday.

On a spooky Halloween night, we’re hunting for…a green GOON. We’re not really scared. Let’s start in a pumpkin patch. We can’t go over or under it, so we’ll just go through it. We’ll do the same in other likely goon hideouts: a swamp, a tunnel, a forest, a graveyard, and, finally, a haunted house. In this atmospheric “petrifying parody” of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, a dad and his four kids, dressed in Halloween finery and accompanied by their costumed pup, search for the elusive quarry. They become more frightened (particularly dad and pooch, even from the outset) as they proceed along the increasingly murky path—except for the youngest, unicorn-outfitted child, who squeals a delighted welcome to whatever creature unexpectedly materializes. As in the classic original, evocative sound effects (“Gurgle hiss, gurgle hiss, gurgle hiss!”) ring out as the quintet moves through each hazard. Unsurprisingly, the group locates the goon, forcing them to retrace their steps home in a frenzied hurry, odd noises and all. They reach safety to discover…uh-oh! Meanwhile, someone’s missing but having a ball! Even readers who’ve never read or heard about the bear expedition will appreciate this clever, comical, fast-paced take. The colorful line illustrations are humorously brooding and sweetly endearing, with the family (all members present White) portrayed as growing steadily apprehensive. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.5-by-20.8-inch double-page spreads viewed at 74.6% of actual size.)

Young readers will hunt out this enjoyable crowd pleaser again and again. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984813-62-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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