A muddled and not particularly pleasant tale of a day at the beach.

READ REVIEW

TAFFY SALTWATER'S YUMMY SUMMER DAY

Taffy Saltwater and her friends set out to build the most spectacular sand castle ever.

When Taffy and her animated stuffed bunny, Rigby Rabbit, and two-legged beach ball, Rollo, arrive at the beach, they are greeted by the sights, sounds and crowds of the boardwalk. When the wind blows Rollo and the beach umbrella far away, Taffy and an ever-growing posse ride the enormous, animate blow-up toy, Bob the Sea Monster, far away from the crowds to where Rollo has come to rest. When this gaudy troupe—which includes Mr. Footer the Hot Dog Man, Edna the Lemon-Ice Lady and Chris the Lifeguard—makes it to the unpopulated beach, they finally build their castle, and it’s a beauty. On each page, three little human boys watch all the action, finally hopping on the blow-up monster and helping with the eventual castle building. No explanation is given for their presence, leaving readers to wonder who they are and why they join Taffy. The absence of caregiving adults also strikes an odd chord. Occasionally, some of the words in the text are printed in oversized font, but there is no apparent rhyme or reason to this. Supersaturated colors and a cartoonish style add to the fantastical elements of the story and make the bustle of the boardwalk even busier—and a bit more sinister—than life.

 A muddled and not particularly pleasant tale of a day at the beach. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-97892-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations.

I BELIEVE I CAN

Diversity is the face of this picture book designed to inspire confidence in children.

Fans of Byers and Bobo’s I Am Enough (2018) will enjoy this book that comes with a universal message of self-acceptance. A line of children practices ballet at the barre; refreshingly, two of the four are visibly (and adorably) pudgy. Another group tends a couple of raised beds; one of them wears hijab. Two more children coax a trepidatious friend down a steep slide. Further images, of children pretending to be pirates, dragons, mimes, playing superhero and soccer, and cooking, are equally endearing, but unfortunately they don’t add enough heft to set the book apart from other empowerment books for children. Though the illustrations shine, the text remains pedagogic and bland. Clichés abound: “When I believe in myself, there’s simply nothing I can’t do”; “Sometimes I am right, and sometimes I am wrong. / But even when I make mistakes, I learn from them to make me strong.” The inclusion of children with varying abilities, religions, genders, body types, and racial presentations creates an inviting tone that makes the book palatable. It’s hard to argue with the titular sentiment, but this is not the only book of its ilk on the shelf.

Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266713-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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