Understanding each other’s unique needs is a tricky lesson to navigate—Ella and Penguin do so with charm and wit.

A PERFECT MATCH

From the Ella and Penguin series

The kindly duo from Ella and Penguin Stick Together (2015) explore another friendship theme.

Penguin has found the perfect pair of striped pants to wear. But Ella is wearing a tutu and thinks that Penguin should wear one, too. After all, friends have to match. Penguin doesn’t want to disappoint, so he carefully squeezes into a tutu, his rosy cheeks growing redder with effort. A small “pfff” escapes his beak. When it is time for a snack, Ella suggests peppermints. Penguin decides he likes peppermints, too. “Because we’re friends! So we match!” Ella, the face of perfect contentment, delights in her candy, but Penguin spits his out in a minty rush. “Haaaaah! Hehhhhhh! Huuuuuh!” Poor Penguin, while getting the short end of the stick in every situation, is a comedic gem. Bonnet renders Penguin’s face into many agonizing contortions until suddenly he explodes in frustration: “This tutu is TOO TOO TIGHT!” Penguin and Ella’s friendship seems doomed. Friends have to like the same things, don’t they? Luckily, they realize they don’t have to match all the time. Maynor’s childcentric text is funny and empathetic. Ella is depicted as a little, light-skinned girl with dark hair, and Penguin is, well, a penguin.

Understanding each other’s unique needs is a tricky lesson to navigate—Ella and Penguin do so with charm and wit. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-233089-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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Sadly, the storytelling runs aground.

LITTLE RED SLEIGH

A little red sleigh has big Christmas dreams.

Although the detailed, full-color art doesn’t anthropomorphize the protagonist (which readers will likely identify as a sled and not a sleigh), a close third-person text affords the object thoughts and feelings while assigning feminine pronouns. “She longed to become Santa’s big red sleigh,” reads an early line establishing the sleigh’s motivation to leave her Christmas-shop home for the North Pole. Other toys discourage her, but she perseveres despite creeping self-doubt. A train and truck help the sleigh along, and when she wishes she were big, fast, and powerful like them, they offer encouragement and counsel patience. When a storm descends after the sleigh strikes out on her own, an unnamed girl playing in the snow brings her to a group of children who all take turns riding the sleigh down a hill. When the girl brings her home, the sleigh is crestfallen she didn’t reach the North Pole. A convoluted happily-ever-after ending shows a note from Santa that thanks the sleigh for giving children joy and invites her to the North Pole next year. “At last she understood what she was meant to do. She would build her life up spreading joy, one child at a time.” Will she leave the girl’s house to be gifted to other children? Will she stay and somehow also reach ever more children? Readers will be left wondering. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 31.8% of actual size.)

Sadly, the storytelling runs aground. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72822-355-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride.

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THE PIGEON WILL RIDE THE ROLLER COASTER!

The Pigeon is on an emotional—and physical—roller coaster.

Since learning about the existence of roller coasters, he’s become giddy with excitement. The Pigeon prepares mentally: He’ll need a ticket and “exemplary patience” to wait in line. He envisions zooming up and down and careening through dizzying turns and loops. Then, he imagines his emotions afterward: exhilaration, post-ride blues, pride at having accomplished such a feat, and enthusiasm at the prospect of riding again. (He’ll also feel dizzy and nauseous.) All this before the Pigeon ever sets claw on an actual coaster. So…will he really try it? Are roller coasters fun? When the moment comes, everything seems to go according to plan: waiting in line, settling into the little car, THEN—off he goes! Though the ride itself isn’t quite what the Pigeon expected, it will delight readers. Wearing his feelings on his wing and speaking directly to the audience in first person, the Pigeon describes realistic thoughts and emotions about waiting and guessing about the unknown—common childhood experiences. No sentiment is misplaced; kids will relate to Pigeon’s eagerness and apprehension. The ending falls somewhat flat, but the whole humorous point is that an underwhelming adventure can still be thrilling enough to warrant repeating. Willems’ trademark droll illustrations will have readers giggling. The roller-coaster attendant is light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4549-4686-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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