A kids’ book with a fine message that’s obscured by uneven prose.

Quiz Kidz Thumbs Down Bullying

In this debut children’s book, two students at a special international school learn about bullying, friendship and understanding. 

Dakota the dinosaur is having a hard time at school—he’s being bullied by his classmate and former best friend, Harry the horse. Although his mother presses him to tell her what’s wrong, he doesn’t reveal that every day, on the bus to school, Harry mocks him mercilessly for no apparent reason. One day, Penelope the pig hears Harry teasing Dakota, and steps in, chiding Harry for his ruthlessly mean behavior. Dakota then becomes nervous: Should he hide in the bathroom to avoid Harry? Should he go to the nurse? When Dakota is late for class and Harry calls him out, their teacher, Ms. Hippo, speaks to them both. She inquires about their former friendship, and about the endless teasing. Eventually, Harry breaks down and reveals details about his own life that he says are causing him to bully others. By the end of the day, everyone has a fresh perspective on what it means to be a friend. Henry-Johnson and Johnson’s debut has an excellent message, urging children and adults to walk a mile in other people’s shoes before judging them. It also shows how it’s far better to talk about one’s problems with a grownup or trusted friend instead of taking them out on others. It’s an important moral, especially in today’s age of cyberbullying. However, the message is diluted by the book’s middling execution, including distracting grammatical errors throughout (“its seven thirty honey”; “Moms’ must have special powers”). The book’s language may also be a bit advanced for very young readers, although parents or older readers can help fill in the blanks. On a brighter note, Asevedo’s illustrations are fun and colorful, and help to break up the long paragraphs and keep readers interested.

A kids’ book with a fine message that’s obscured by uneven prose.

Pub Date: Nov. 13, 2014

ISBN: 978-1500991272

Page Count: 42

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2015

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Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S VALENTINE

Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Wonderful, indeed

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THE WONDERFUL THINGS YOU WILL BE

A GROWING-UP POEM

A love song to baby with delightful illustrations to boot.

Sweet but not saccharine and singsong but not forced, Martin’s text is one that will invite rereadings as it affirms parental wishes for children while admirably keeping child readers at its heart. The lines that read “This is the first time / There’s ever been you, / So I wonder what wonderful things / You will do” capture the essence of the picture book and are accompanied by a diverse group of babies and toddlers clad in downright adorable outfits. Other spreads include older kids, too, and pictures expand on the open text to visually interpret the myriad possibilities and hopes for the depicted children. For example, a spread reading “Will you learn how to fly / To find the best view?” shows a bespectacled, school-aged girl on a swing soaring through an empty white background. This is just one spread in which Martin’s fearless embrace of the white of the page serves her well. Throughout the book, she maintains a keen balance of layout choices, and surprising details—zebras on the wallpaper behind a father cradling his child, a rock-’n’-roll band of mice paralleling the children’s own band called “The Missing Teeth”—add visual interest and gentle humor. An ideal title for the baby-shower gift bag and for any nursery bookshelf or lap-sit storytime.

Wonderful, indeed . (Picture book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37671-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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