From the Bright Owl Books series

With such creative illustrations beckoning to readers, children may muster up their decoding skills to get through the...

Nat the rat, Pat the rat, and Matt the rat try to steal the jam that Gram is making for Ann, Fran, and Stan.

In a nutshell, that is the plot of this phonics book for emergent readers, one of a new series, Bright Owl Books. The short “a” sound is the focus, but the appeal is in the original photo illustrations that will grab children’s interest even if the words and bare story don’t. Stuffed white mice and gray rats are dressed and posed in fascinating environments filled with old toys, baskets, textured fabrics, and painted antique containers. These photos look like stills from a stop-action animated film that should have been produced with a more exciting storyline. A skirt, apron, and shawl in three different vintage prints adorn Gram’s small figure, tiny spectacles perched on her pink stitched nose, in just one of the lovingly made costumes for the toy creatures. While most of the dialogue-driven text supports the repetition of the short “a” sound (“I am a bandit, ma'am. Hand over the jam”), some of the vocabulary is more advanced and occasionally inconsistent in its reinforcement of its chosen sound. Publishing simultaneously are Cubs in a Tub, Hop, Frog!, Princess Pig, and Wet Hen.

With such creative illustrations beckoning to readers, children may muster up their decoding skills to get through the purposeful text, perhaps with a little help from an adult. (Early reader. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-57565-973-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Kane Press

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018


A stocking stuffer par excellence, just right for dishing up with milk and cookies.

Pigeon finds something better to drive than some old bus.

This time it’s Santa delivering the fateful titular words, and with a “Ho. Ho. Whoa!” the badgering begins: “C’mon! Where’s your holiday spirit? It would be a Christmas MIRACLE! Don’t you want to be part of a Christmas miracle…?” Pigeon is determined: “I can do Santa stuff!” Like wrapping gifts (though the accompanying illustration shows a rather untidy present), delivering them (the image of Pigeon attempting to get an oversize sack down a chimney will have little ones giggling), and eating plenty of cookies. Alas, as Willems’ legion of young fans will gleefully predict, not even Pigeon’s by-now well-honed persuasive powers (“I CAN BE JOLLY!”) will budge the sleigh’s large and stinky reindeer guardian. “BAH. Also humbug.” In the typically minimalist art, the frustrated feathered one sports a floppily expressive green and red elf hat for this seasonal addition to the series—but then discards it at the end for, uh oh, a pair of bunny ears. What could Pigeon have in mind now? “Egg delivery, anyone?”

A stocking stuffer par excellence, just right for dishing up with milk and cookies. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781454952770

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023


Echoes of Runaway Bunny color this exchange between a bath-averse piglet and his patient mother. Using a strategy that would probably be a nonstarter in real life, the mother deflects her stubborn offspring’s string of bath-free occupational conceits with appeals to reason: “Pirates NEVER EVER take baths!” “Pirates don’t get seasick either. But you do.” “Yeesh. I’m an astronaut, okay?” “Well, it is hard to bathe in zero gravity. It’s hard to poop and pee in zero gravity too!” And so on, until Mom’s enticing promise of treasure in the deep sea persuades her little Treasure Hunter to take a dive. Chunky figures surrounded by lots of bright white space in Segal’s minimally detailed watercolors keep the visuals as simple as the plotline. The language isn’t quite as basic, though, and as it rendered entirely in dialogue—Mother Pig’s lines are italicized—adult readers will have to work hard at their vocal characterizations for it to make any sense. Moreover, younger audiences (any audiences, come to that) may wonder what the piggy’s watery closing “EUREKA!!!” is all about too. Not particularly persuasive, but this might coax a few young porkers to get their trotters into the tub. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-25425-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2011

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