A straightforward but strange cautionary tale with vibrant images.


A vain Christmas tree receives a hard lesson when he’s almost cut down in this picture book.

In a lovely forest, some pine trees get a warning from their father. “Do you see the stumps?” he asks. Noting that only beautiful trees are cut down by humans for Christmas, the father instructs the group to grow ugly and crooked. Little Stevie thinks his father’s story is silly and decides to grow tall and strong. As winter comes, all the trees look peculiar and twisted—except Stevie, who feels proud of his good looks until a family arrives with axes to cut him down. Stevie mourns his unwise decision, but through the intervention of an odd-looking nature spirit, he is transformed into an ugly tree, safe from humans. While Christmas is a popular picture-book topic, this tale seems likely to make children more worried about the ethics of cutting down trees for their homes than about the problems of vanity. The spirit’s introduction at the climax, with no previous hints of his existence, feels like a late plot addition to save the arrogant tree from his mistakes. Still, Pellico’s clear, text-dense tale uses simple sentences and an accessible vocabulary against Newman’s colorful cartoon illustrations, which show humans with different skin tones. The images of the forest creatures and anthropomorphized trees have a Disney-esque feel. The ugly trees show a lot of personality, and kids will root for them to stay together.

A straightforward but strange cautionary tale with vibrant images.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73391-306-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Moonbow Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2021

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New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned.


All the reasons why a daughter needs a mother.

Each spread features an adorable cartoon animal parent-child pair on the recto opposite a rhyming verse: “I’ll always support you in giving your all / in every endeavor, the big and the small, / and be there to catch you in case you should fall. / I hope you believe this is true.” A virtually identical book, Why a Daughter Needs a Dad, publishes simultaneously. Both address standing up for yourself and your values, laughing to ease troubles, being thankful, valuing friendship, persevering and dreaming big, being truthful, thinking through decisions, and being open to differences, among other topics. Though the sentiments/life lessons here and in the companion title are heartfelt and important, there are much better ways to deliver them. These books are likely to go right over children’s heads and developmental levels (especially with the rather advanced vocabulary); their parents are the more likely audience, and for them, the books provide some coaching in what kids need to hear. The two books are largely interchangeable, especially since there are so few references to mom or dad, but one spread in each book reverts to stereotype: Dad balances the two-wheeler, and mom helps with clothing and hair styles. Since the books are separate, it aids in customization for many families.

New parents of daughters will eat these up and perhaps pass on the lessons learned. (Picture book. 4-8, adult)

Pub Date: May 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6781-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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