With its flaws more likely to bother adults than children, this tale delivers an enjoyable adventure for reading aloud.

CROSSING BRIAR WOO

From the Squirrel Hill series , Vol. 1

In this children’s series opener, a girl embarks on an expedition with her cat and a (mostly) intrepid band of stuffed-animal friends.

Madison is a freckle-faced, daring young girl who lives in Squirrel Hill—not the Pittsburgh neighborhood but a bucolic rural area with a farmhouse bordered by Briar Woo, a small forest with a stream running through it. (The forest’s curious name is never explained, perhaps deriving from a child’s pronunciation of Briar Woods.) Madison’s companions include a cat named Kitty, who claims not to be curious but is, and two live stuffed animals who speak. Ellie the elephant, fat and fearful, makes up enjoyable songs; Sergeant Monk-Monk is well-organized and resembles Madison’s Uncle Stanley, a soldier. Uncle Stanley bought Monk-Monk in North Africa—which, Madison is sure, lies on the other side of Briar Woo and is the object of today’s trek. The foursome encounters some problems, especially in crossing the creek that runs through the woods; Ellie, in particular, has some scary moments but prevails, and the companions befriend a beaver. Madison is dismayed to discover that after all their exploring, they will arrive where they started, but she praises her friends for doing well. North Africa can wait for another day. Clark (Just an Ordinary Elephant and the Bald Cardinal, 2018, etc.) owes an obvious debt to A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh books, with the woods, a young child protagonist, and a cast of plush-toy–derived characters. Like Pooh, Ellie creates whimsical ditties; like Eeyore, he's pessimistic: “We do not know how far it is…and my short, fat legs cannot move very fast.” Clark does add a North American flavor to the story (aimed at ages 4 to 7) with the farmhouse setting, gopher and beaver characters, and general air of can-do resolve. It’s odd, though, that the dialogue sometimes sounds British: “Bosh,” “Terribly sorry,” and “Listen, old chap,” for example. Driver’s (Just an Ordinary Elephant and the Bald Cardinal, 2018) skillfully drawn, attractive illustrations deftly capture personalities, providing rich details that help tell the story.

With its flaws more likely to bother adults than children, this tale delivers an enjoyable adventure for reading aloud.

Pub Date: May 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-71724-569-4

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Ozymandias Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2018

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THE LORAX

The greening of Dr. Seuss, in an ecology fable with an obvious message but a savingly silly style. In the desolate land of the Lifted Lorax, an aged creature called the Once-ler tells a young visitor how he arrived long ago in the then glorious country and began manufacturing anomalous objects called Thneeds from "the bright-colored tufts of the Truffula Trees." Despite protests from the Lorax, a native "who speaks for the trees," he continues to chop down Truffulas until he drives away the Brown Bar-ba-loots who had fed on the Tuffula fruit, the Swomee-Swans who can't sing a note for the smogulous smoke, and the Humming-Fish who had hummed in the pond now glumped up with Gluppity-Glupp. As for the Once-let, "1 went right on biggering, selling more Thneeds./ And I biggered my money, which everyone needs" — until the last Truffula falls. But one seed is left, and the Once-let hands it to his listener, with a message from the Lorax: "UNLESS someone like you/ cares a whole awful lot,/ nothing is going to get better./ It's not." The spontaneous madness of the old Dr. Seuss is absent here, but so is the boredom he often induced (in parents, anyway) with one ridiculous invention after another. And if the Once-let doesn't match the Grinch for sheer irresistible cussedness, he is stealing a lot more than Christmas and his story just might induce a generation of six-year-olds to care a whole lot.

Pub Date: Aug. 12, 1971

ISBN: 0394823370

Page Count: 72

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1971

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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves

MAYBE

A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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