This is a rare book: joyful, ingenuous, playfully earnest, but without a whiff of studied cuteness.

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YOURS SINCERELY, GIRAFFE

Giraffe, bored and looking for a friend, becomes pen pals with Penguin in this illustrated chapter book.

Even though Giraffe has nice weather and plenty to eat in his home in Africa, he is bored because he doesn’t have “an extra special friend.” A notice from an also-bored pelican offering “to deliver anything anywhere” spurs Giraffe to write a letter introducing himself (“I’m famous for my long neck”), and he asks Pelican to deliver it to the first animal he meets on the “other side of the horizon.” After a long flight, Pelican sees Seal. Seal delivers the letter to Penguin, since Penguin is “the only animal…who got letters….Most were from his girlfriend.” This original, playful story unfolds with perfect pacing as Giraffe and Penguin start a pen-pal correspondence. (Penguin, not sure what a neck is, writes back: “I think maybe I don’t have a neck. Or maybe I am all neck?”) Giraffe and Pelican, reading Penguin’s letters describing himself, are just as confused about what Penguin looks like. Hilarious deductive reasoning ensues. Young readers will love the silliness. Older readers (including adults) will relax in this gentle, judgment-free world of curiosity and discovery. Takabatake’s fresh, unaffected line illustrations create a seamless collaboration of art and words.

This is a rare book: joyful, ingenuous, playfully earnest, but without a whiff of studied cuteness. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-9272-7188-9

Page Count: 104

Publisher: Gecko Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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Sweetly low-key and totally accessible.

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THE YEAR OF BILLY MILLER

Billy Miller’s second-grade year is quietly spectacular in a wonderfully ordinary way.

Billy’s year begins with his worry over the lump on his head, a souvenir of a dramatic summer fall onto concrete: Will he be up to the challenges his new teacher promises in her letter to students? Quickly overshadowing that worry, however, is a diplomatic crisis over whether he has somehow offended Ms. Silver on the first day of school. Four sections—Teacher, Father, Sister and Mother—offer different and essential focal points for Billy’s life, allowing both him and readers to explore several varieties of creative endeavor, small adventures, and, especially, both challenges and successful problem-solving. The wonderfully self-possessed Sal, his 3-year-old sister, is to Billy much as Ramona is to Beezus, but without the same level of tension. Her pillowcase full of the plush yellow whales she calls the Drop Sisters (Raindrop, Gumdrop, etc.) is a memorable prop. Henkes offers what he so often does in these longer works for children: a sense that experiences don’t have to be extraordinary to be important and dramatic. Billy’s slightly dreamy interior life isn’t filled with either angst or boisterous silliness—rather, the moments that appear in these stories are clarifying bits of the universal larger puzzle of growing up, changing and understanding the world. Small, precise black-and-white drawings punctuate and decorate the pages.

Sweetly low-key and totally accessible. (Fiction. 7-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-226812-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Review Posted Online: April 24, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS

This is rather a silly story, and I don't believe children will think it particularly funny. A paper hanger and painter finds time on his hands in winter, and spends it in reading of arctic exploration. It is all given reality when he receives a present of a penguin, which makes its nest in the refrigerator on cubes of ice, mates with a lonely penguin from the zoo, and produces a family of penguins which help set the Poppers on their feet.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1938

ISBN: 978-0-316-05843-8

Page Count: 139

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1938

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