It’s much better than a phonics worksheet, but it’s a shame these photos serve such dull storytelling.




From the Bright Owl Books series

“Kate and Nate bake a cake for Grandpa Jake.”

Kate and Nate are snails, three-dimensional characters crafted out of wool and adorned with real shells on their backs. When they see a fabric snake, they are very scared and try to evade him with one of the modes of transportation available—trains, planes, and boats. (Little do they know that he is Grandpa Jake’s “great mate.”) A real wooded area serves as backdrop; it almost seems as if the photos are movie stills, but the scenes have been specifically constructed for this volume, one of a growing series with one simple aim: to teach phonics by introducing one sound at a time. This volume introduces the long “a” with commonplace words like “place,” “plate,” “sail,” and “trail.” The pictures are intriguing and use many different kinds of materials and objects, including a real lit candle atop the cake, a toy wooden rolling pin, and a graceful toy boat with a beautiful sail with a very handsome snail design. Young readers will pore over the pages, perhaps trying to figure out how they might create such scenes. In the meantime, they will probably absorb the lesson and learn some decoding skills. Two story-starter ideas round out the volume. Four other titles publish simultaneously: Blues for Unicorn, Go Home, Goat, Greedy Beetle, and Lion Spies a Tiger.

It’s much better than a phonics worksheet, but it’s a shame these photos serve such dull storytelling. (Early reader. 4-6)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63592-097-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Kane Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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Laugh-out-loud fun for all.

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Hilarious complications ensue when Nanette’s mom gives her the responsibility of buying the family baguette.

She sets out on her errand and encounters lots of distractions along the way as she meets and greets Georgette, Suzette, Bret with his clarinet, Mr. Barnett and his pet, Antoinette. But she remembers her mission and buys the baguette from Juliette the baker. And oh, it is a wonderful large, warm, aromatic hunk of bread, so Nanette takes a taste and another and more—until there is nothing left. Maybe she needs to take a jet to Tibet. But she faces her mother and finds understanding, tenderness, and a surprise twist. Willems is at his outlandish best with line after line of “ettes” and their absurd rhymes, all the while demonstrating a deep knowledge of children’s thought processes. Nanette and the entire cast of characters are bright green frogs with very large round eyes, heavily outlined in black and clad in eccentric clothing and hats. A highly detailed village constructed of cardboard forms the background for Nanette’s adventures. Her every emotion explodes all over the pages in wildly expressive, colorful vignettes and an eye-popping use of emphatic display type. The endpapers follow the fate of the baguette from fresh and whole to chewed and gone. Demands for encores will surely follow.

Laugh-out-loud fun for all. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4847-2286-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history.


Ferry and the Fans portray a popular seasonal character’s unlikely friendship.

Initially, the protagonist is shown in his solitary world: “Scarecrow stands alone and scares / the fox and deer, / the mice and crows. / It’s all he does. It’s all he knows.” His presence is effective; the animals stay outside the fenced-in fields, but the omniscient narrator laments the character’s lack of friends or places to go. Everything changes when a baby crow falls nearby. Breaking his pole so he can bend, the scarecrow picks it up, placing the creature in the bib of his overalls while singing a lullaby. Both abandon natural tendencies until the crow learns to fly—and thus departs. The aabb rhyme scheme flows reasonably well, propelling the narrative through fall, winter, and spring, when the mature crow returns with a mate to build a nest in the overalls bib that once was his home. The Fan brothers capture the emotional tenor of the seasons and the main character in their panoramic pencil, ballpoint, and digital compositions. Particularly poignant is the close-up of the scarecrow’s burlap face, his stitched mouth and leaf-rimmed head conveying such sadness after his companion goes. Some adults may wonder why the scarecrow seems to have only partial agency, but children will be tuned into the problem, gratified by the resolution.

A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247576-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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