Silly and heartwarming in equal measure.

ARE YOU A CHEESEBURGER?

Grub the raccoon just can’t wait for Seed the seed to grow into a cheeseburger plant.

Grub loves cheeseburgers, although his real-life cheeseburger experience is limited. When Grub finds Seed in the garbage, he plants him in the hopes of growing a cheeseburger plant. Seed isn’t exactly sure what he’s going to grow into, but he wants to make his new friend happy. When he finally blooms, he’s not quite what Grub had been hoping for. This utterly charming book is full of humor in both the text and the adorable illustrations. Grub’s expressive face is delightful, whether he’s disappointed, deep in contemplation, or giving a hard side-eye. The primary moral of the story is that we should accept our friends for who they are, not try to change them. But the author also incorporates some more subtle and sophisticated lessons. Seed’s calm, cheerful attitude toward his unknown future models an open-minded acceptance of change. Grub’s initial disappointment and ensuing loving acceptance feel emotionally authentic and sweet without being saccharine, highlighted by the affecting double-page illustrations. Both characters experience growth and discovery in their identities, demonstrating that it’s OK to not know exactly what the future holds for you. Don’t mistake these messages for preachiness, though. It is enjoyable purely as a funny and touching story about a raccoon and a seed who are friends. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Silly and heartwarming in equal measure. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-300394-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Sweet, good-hearted fun.

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THE SOUR GRAPE

From the Food Group series

A recovering curmudgeon narrates life lessons in the latest entry in the punny Food Group series.

Grape wasn’t always sour, as they explain in this origin story. Grape’s arc starts with an idyllic childhood within “a close-knit bunch” in a community of “about three thousand.” The sweet-to-sour switch begins when Grape plans an elaborate birthday party to which no one shows up. Going from “sweet” to “bitter,” “snappy,” and, finally, “sour,” Grape “scowled so much that my face got all squishy.” Minor grudges become major. An aha moment occurs when a run of bad luck makes Grape three hours late for a meetup with best friend Lenny, who’s just as acidic as Grape. After the irate lemon storms off, Grape recognizes their own behavior in Lenny. Alone, Grape begins to enjoy the charms of a lovely evening. Once home, the fruit browses through a box of memorabilia, discovering that the old birthday party invitation provided the wrong date! “I realized nobody’s perfect. Not even me.” Remaining pages reverse the downturn as Grape observes that minor setbacks are easily weathered when the emphasis is on talking, listening, and working things out. Oswald’s signature illustrations depict Grape and company with big eyes and tiny limbs. The best sight gag occurs early: Grape’s grandparents are depicted as elegant raisins. The lessons are as valuable as in previous outings, and kids won’t mind the slight preachiness. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sweet, good-hearted fun. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-304541-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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