Enjoyably old-fashioned tales with charm, wit, and an appreciation of kindness.


From the Stories from Squirrel Hill series , Vol. 2

An elephant searches for a hat to make him special and a cat meets a bird missing his head feathers in these two read-aloud children’s stories.

Squirrel Hill (not the Pittsburgh neighborhood) is a farmhouse in the country. Madison, the young girl who lives there, has several walking, talking plush-toy animals. Other farmyard and wild animals also speak and behave in some human ways. In “Just an Ordinary Elephant,” Perfesser is a self-important goose who proclaims that there’s nothing special about Ellie, a stuffed elephant, because he’s unlike African elephants, who have ears that “always stick straight out….And they always wear straw hats.” Ellie overhears this and—his dignity wounded—decides he must emulate African elephants. Though Madison knows that Ellie is indeed special, being polite, kind, and generous, he’ll have to learn this for himself. In “The Bald Cardinal,” the cat Kitty certainly doesn’t lack confidence, knowing herself to be “brainy, gorgeous, and curious.” She meets a bald cardinal whose condition is a problem: “I cannot find anyone who will talk with me without staring at my head and tweeting all their friends.” But Kitty reassures him he’s very handsome, “and…when he really thought about it, a cat should know.” Though Kitty, like Ellie, performs a kind act, she decides—catlike—to keep it to herself and to never do it again. Clark (Crossing Briar Woo, 2018, etc.) follows up his first outing in this series with two tales (aimed at children ages 4 to 7) that are less focused on Madison and more on the animal denizens of Squirrel Hill. Each one has something to say about self-acceptance, but neither is overly preachy. Instead, gentle humor and good characterization make for amusing scenarios, as when Ellie, offered assistance by Esther Marie Rabbit, “did not say ‘thank you.’ He was trying very hard to be special and he forgot.” The second story is slighter, but Kitty’s zest enlivens it. Driver’s (Crossing Briar Woo, 2018, etc.) attractively detailed pencil-and-wash illustrations bring out the characters’ expressions and personalities, skillfully distinguishing between real and stuffed animals.

Enjoyably old-fashioned tales with charm, wit, and an appreciation of kindness.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72323-089-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Ozymandias Publishing Co.

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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


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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With the same delightfully irreverent spirit that he brought to his retelling of "Little Red Riding Hood" (1987), Marshall enlivens another favorite. Although completely retold with his usual pungent wit and contemporary touches ("I don't mind if I do," says Goldilocks, as she tries out porridge, chair, and bed), Marshall retains the stories well-loved pattern, including Goldilocks escaping through the window (whereupon Baby Bear inquires, "Who was that little girl?"). The illustrations are fraught with delicious humor and detail: books that are stacked everywhere around the rather cluttered house, including some used in lieu of a missing leg for Papa Bear's chair; comically exaggerated beds—much too high at the head and the foot; and Baby Bear's wonderfully messy room, which certainly brings the story into the 20th century. Like its predecessor, perfect for several uses, from picture-book hour to beginning reading.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1988

ISBN: 0140563660

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1988

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