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 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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A joyful celebration.


Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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