A simple book paves the way for complicated concepts.

WHERE ARE YOU LITTLE RED BALL?

A little red ball tries out a variety of identities before finding its true calling—maybe.

This deceptively simple-looking book challenges its young audience to conceptualize transformation and identity. The second-person text addresses a series of questions to the titular ball, one per double-page spread. “What are you doing there Little Red Ball? / Are you a ball to play with? / Are you an apple hanging from an apple tree?” In the first, the little red ball appears on the very right edge, at the end of a straight, dashed line that extends across the spread indicating movement. As the pages turn, the dashed line becomes a series of arcs indicating bounces—through a basketball hoop, off a baseball bat and then a ping-pong paddle—and then disappears altogether as the ball is transformed into an apple hanging from a branch. After further transformations, the ball is revealed to be the nose of Manolo the Clown—at least temporarily, as the final spread reprises the first. The compositions are simple, as is the mostly black, white, and red palette. It’s a tremendously sophisticated conceit for a board book, but toddlers will see how one basic shape—a circle—can be found in many different contexts, and the second-person address can help lay the groundwork for understanding individuation later on.

A simple book paves the way for complicated concepts. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-926890-12-8

Page Count: 12

Publisher: Tradewind Books

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable.

ANIMAL SHAPES

You think you know shapes? Animals? Blend them together, and you might see them both a little differently!

What a mischievous twist on a concept book! With wordplay and a few groan-inducing puns, Neal creates connections among animals and shapes that are both unexpected and so seemingly obvious that readers might wonder why they didn’t see them all along. Of course, a “lazy turtle” meeting an oval would create the side-splitting combo of a “SLOW-VAL.” A dramatic page turn transforms a deeply saturated, clean-lined green oval by superimposing a head and turtle shell atop, with watery blue ripples completing the illusion. Minimal backgrounds and sketchy, impressionistic detailing keep the focus right on the zany animals. Beginning with simple shapes, the geometric forms become more complicated as the book advances, taking readers from a “soaring bird” that meets a triangle to become a “FLY-ANGLE” to a “sleepy lion” nonagon “YAWN-AGON.” Its companion text, Animal Colors, delves into color theory, this time creating entirely hybrid animals, such as the “GREEN WHION” with maned head and whale’s tail made from a “blue whale and a yellow lion.” It’s a compelling way to visualize color mixing, and like Animal Shapes, it’s got verve. Who doesn’t want to shout out that a yellow kangaroo/green moose blend is a “CHARTREUSE KANGAMOOSE”?

Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0534-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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An inventive and extensive counting experience that will delight youngsters.

COUNTABLOCK

From the Block Books series

Shaped pages help youngsters count to 10 and beyond.

Two stylish double-page spreads are devoted to each number one through 10 and then, counting by 10s, to 100. In the first spread, the right-hand side is a page-high, die-cut numeral that spills off the page; to its left, a squirrel holds an acorn. With the turn of the page, there’s a transformation. “One acorn becomes… / one oak tree!” A portion of the object, animal or person being altered is visible through the die-cut openings; a sand castle peeks through the “0” of the number 10, for instance. Once the page is turned, the background from the previous left-hand page merges with the full double-page spread. As in the earlier Alphablock (2013), the helpfulness of these visual hints is uneven. After 10, 20 caterpillars become 20 butterflies, 30 baskets of cucumbers become 30 jars of pickles, and 40 eggs become 39 chicks and one dinosaur. The whole shebang ends with 100 puzzle pieces fitting together into “one big puzzle!” in the book’s only double gatefold. Peskimo’s muted color palette and droll cartoon style works well with the playful concept. The same worries about the binding that arose with Alphablock are an issue here, but the conceit will likely appeal to older children anyway.

An inventive and extensive counting experience that will delight youngsters. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4197-1374-3

Page Count: 94

Publisher: Abrams Appleseed

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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