Readers can’t help but feel lifted after spending time with these two companions.

A SURPRISE FOR GIRAFFE AND ELEPHANT

From the Giraffe and Elephant series

The welcome return of odd-couple pals Elephant and Giraffe (When Elephant Met Giraffe, 2014).

Gude tenders three brief but pointed moments in the lives of Elephant and Giraffe: the best time to play the alpenhorn (here referred to as an alpine horn), how to enjoy (or not) a toboggan on a tropical savannah and how to throw a surprise party. Its exactitude is charming. In the first vignette, Giraffe (who does not speak) is clueless as to when to play his huge horn: when Elephant is going to bed, when she is getting up, maybe when she is having lunch? Lunch turns out to be the best time. In the second sketch, Elephant voices that she would like a toboggan, so Giraffe sets to work (with an acetylene torch) to build her one. Once it’s completed, they bring it to the dry, flat savannah and sit on it. Elephant is very grateful—and tactful. In the final episode, Elephant tells Giraffe she is throwing him a surprise party. Giraffe asks for balloon animals, polka music and no cake. That’s what he gets but only if you take one word at a time. Though there are some quirks—using a blowtorch to build a wooden object is a big one—the artwork’s an utter distraction, with color straight out of first-grade paint jars.

Readers can’t help but feel lifted after spending time with these two companions. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4231-8311-2

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Though Penguin doesn’t discover any of his own true talents, young listeners will probably empathize with wanting something...

FLIGHT SCHOOL

From the Flight School series

A small round penguin with lofty aspirations finds success of a sort in a sweet, if slight, appreciation of the resourcefulness of teachers.

The sign near a cluster of wooden pilings in the middle of the water reads “FLIGHT SCHOOL / WE TEACH BIRDS TO FLY.” “I was hatched to fly,” announces Penguin upon his arrival from the South Pole. “I have the soul of an eagle,” he assures the gently dubious Teacher. “Penguin and the other birdies practiced for weeks,” but he succeeds only in plunging into the ocean—not terribly gracefully. He is ready to give up when a solution devised by Teacher and Flamingo has Penguin flying, if only for a few moments, and his happiness at this one-time achievement is lasting. Judge’s edge-to-edge watercolor-and-pencil art is lively and amusing. Her various sea and shore birds—gulls, a pelican, a heron and a small owl among them—and their fledglings are just a little scruffy, and they are exaggeratedly, expressively funny in their anthropomorphic roles as teachers and students. Background shades of warm yellow, sea blue and green, and brown sand let the friendly, silly faces and bodies of the birds take center stage.

Though Penguin doesn’t discover any of his own true talents, young listeners will probably empathize with wanting something so far out of reach. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: April 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-14424-8177-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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