A heartfelt if rocky read-aloud.

THE BENCH

The titular bench, in several iterations, becomes a touchstone fixture in the lives of several father-and-son pairings.

The text is related in the voice of a loving partner who is mostly off page as they address the father figure who appears in every picture along with his son. In all but the first and last pictures, which depict a White, redhaired, bearded man and his offspring, each father-son pairing is different, as is the bench and its location. Some benches are clearly in public places (a park, a bus stop), while others are in what appear to be residences or backyards; most are ambiguously situated, allowing readers to reach their own conclusions as to where each father-son pair is. What is constant is the love between them, whether the tutu-clad father and his similarly attired son, both with light brown skin, using a bench to stretch; the Black father and babe enjoying a sun-dappled nap; or the Sikh father cheering his son’s soccer exploits. While Robinson’s painterly illustrations are characteristically beautiful, the text from Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, is less accomplished. Written in abcb rhyming quatrains, it often struggles for rhyme and scansion, sometimes to tortuous effect: “You feel happiness, sorrow / One day be heartbroken. / You’ll tell him ‘I love you’ / Those words always spoken.”

A heartfelt if rocky read-aloud. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-43451-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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Another solid addition to the beloved series.

LLAMA LLAMA BACK TO SCHOOL

Summertime with all its pleasures is coming to an end, and school will soon begin again. What challenges will the new school year bring for Llama?

Told in a by-now-trademark rhyming verse style and accompanied by adorable, cheerful oil paint, colored pencil, and oil pastel illustrations, this story finds Llama taking pleasure in all the fun that summer brings—and hoping it will never be over. “Fishing, hiking, slip and slide. / Backyard camping, picnic time.” But as sure as one season follows another, fall is on its way and school will be starting again. Mamma Llama takes Llama shopping for new school supplies, but the expression on little Llama’s face makes it clear that preparing to return to school is anything but fun. Soon, the first day of school comes, and Llama is ready. There are so many rules: “Be on time. / Don’t push or shove. Stand in line. / Do not shout. Raise your hand.” “Lunch in cubbies. Coats on hooks.” But these are seasoned students, and they take it in stride. All except for one: A young rhino is new and feeling scared. Llama knows just what to do, sharing crayons and showing the newcomer how to glue. Soon the rhino is part of the gang. As is characteristic of the series, this is one more situation familiar to many a young child solved in sweet Llama style. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Another solid addition to the beloved series. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35244-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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