A Valentine to dogs, though the message is mixed.

Even naughty dogs who can’t behave need someone to love them.

A small, squat dog with bug eyes and short legs with red-and-white striped sweat bands above the paws just cannot seem to do what’s right. The dog licks, bites, nips, paws, scratches, digs, messes, and steals—and that’s just on the first page of text. One of the pup’s worst habits is running away, which it does constantly, especially after it hears the grown-ups of the family (never seen) discussing how it’ll have to go. This time, though, the dog can’t find its way back, and it’s thundering. But its owner, a redheaded, bespectacled, white little child, finds it, and the adults change their tune about keeping their child’s beloved pet. But in a confusing ending to what has been a first-person account from the dog’s perspective, the text reads, “I don’t do words. / They make no sense. / I jump for joy… // …and jump the fence.” So, the dog, which obviously has learned nothing about running away, is saying it doesn’t understand anyone’s words, even though it specifically reacted to the grown-ups’ threats and it’s told the whole tale in (not bad, though repetitious) rhyme? The illustrations make clear the dog’s exuberance and sheer dog-ness, and its owner obviously loves it (except when the pooch rolls in poo).

A Valentine to dogs, though the message is mixed. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-444-92456-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Aladdin

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016


Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions.

Ellis, known for her illustrations for Colin Meloy’s Wildwood series, here riffs on the concept of “home.”

Shifting among homes mundane and speculative, contemporary and not, Ellis begins and ends with views of her own home and a peek into her studio. She highlights palaces and mansions, but she also takes readers to animal homes and a certain famously folkloric shoe (whose iconic Old Woman manages a passel of multiethnic kids absorbed in daring games). One spread showcases “some folks” who “live on the road”; a band unloads its tour bus in front of a theater marquee. Ellis’ compelling ink and gouache paintings, in a palette of blue-grays, sepia and brick red, depict scenes ranging from mythical, underwater Atlantis to a distant moonscape. Another spread, depicting a garden and large building under connected, transparent domes, invites readers to wonder: “Who in the world lives here? / And why?” (Earth is seen as a distant blue marble.) Some of Ellis’ chosen depictions, oddly juxtaposed and stripped of any historical or cultural context due to the stylized design and spare text, become stereotypical. “Some homes are boats. / Some homes are wigwams.” A sailing ship’s crew seems poised to land near a trio of men clad in breechcloths—otherwise unidentified and unremarked upon.

Visually accomplished but marred by stereotypical cultural depictions. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 24, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6529-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Nov. 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014


Although the love comes shining through, the text often confuses in straining for patterned simplicity.

A collection of parental wishes for a child.

It starts out simply enough: two children run pell-mell across an open field, one holding a high-flying kite with the line “I wish you more ups than downs.” But on subsequent pages, some of the analogous concepts are confusing or ambiguous. The line “I wish you more tippy-toes than deep” accompanies a picture of a boy happily swimming in a pool. His feet are visible, but it's not clear whether he's floating in the deep end or standing in the shallow. Then there's a picture of a boy on a beach, his pockets bulging with driftwood and colorful shells, looking frustrated that his pockets won't hold the rest of his beachcombing treasures, which lie tantalizingly before him on the sand. The line reads: “I wish you more treasures than pockets.” Most children will feel the better wish would be that he had just the right amount of pockets for his treasures. Some of the wordplay, such as “more can than knot” and “more pause than fast-forward,” will tickle older readers with their accompanying, comical illustrations. The beautifully simple pictures are a sweet, kid- and parent-appealing blend of comic-strip style and fine art; the cast of children depicted is commendably multiethnic.

Although the love comes shining through, the text often confuses in straining for patterned simplicity. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4521-2699-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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