THE BOY AND THE BEAR

All tried-and-true territory here but not a comprehensive, satisfying experience.

“A boy had a bear. A fuzzy brown bear. / It went with him here and went with him there.”

This book starts simply with a cartoon-style boy and his teddy bear in a Seussian terrain, full of knolls, knobs, and curls. They tranquilly journey through day and night, “[a]ways a pair.” The story becomes a rhyming cumulative tale when the boy picks up a “goat in a polka-dot coat.” The trio continues on their journey, gathering the increasingly odd, seemingly toy creatures that dot the landscape, from a “huggable, lovable slug” to a “sing-along thing.” The pile of creatures in the boy’s arms becomes so high that with “a teeter” and “a totter” they all tumble down to the ground. But where is the bear? Readers know, but the distraught boy discovers that bear is on his head only when he cries out and the bear slides down. After their joyful reunion, the boy discovers where all the toys have come from. He assists in their return, and the boy and bear are alone again, “simply a pair.” The book ends with two pages of “Feelings,” challenging children to match “Sad” or “Happy,” for example, with a corresponding drawing of a facial expression exhibited by the protagonist, who is white. This seems a bit of overreach, since the boy’s expressions throughout the tale are overwhelmingly mild, and the illustration for Happy is the only one that has not appeared previously.

All tried-and-true territory here but not a comprehensive, satisfying experience. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4095-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

PERFECTLY NORMAN

From the Big Bright Feelings series

A heartwarming story about facing fears and acceptance.

A boy with wings learns to be himself and inspires others like him to soar, too.

Norman, a “perfectly normal” boy, never dreamed he might grow wings. Afraid of what his parents might say, he hides his new wings under a big, stuffy coat. Although the coat hides his wings from the world, Norman no longer finds joy in bathtime, playing at the park, swimming, or birthday parties. With the gentle encouragement of his parents, who see his sadness, Norman finds the courage to come out of hiding and soar. Percival (The Magic Looking Glass, 2017, etc.) depicts Norman with light skin and dark hair. Black-and-white illustrations show his father with dark skin and hair and his mother as white. The contrast of black-and-white illustrations with splashes of bright color complements the story’s theme. While Norman tries to be “normal,” the world and people around him look black and gray, but his coat stands out in yellow. Birds pop from the page in pink, green, and blue, emphasizing the joy and beauty of flying free. The final spread, full of bright color and multiracial children in flight, sets the mood for Norman’s realization on the last page that there is “no such thing as perfectly normal,” but he can be “perfectly Norman.”

A heartwarming story about facing fears and acceptance. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68119-785-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

OLIVER AND HIS EGG

Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for...

Oliver, of first-day-of-school alligator fame, is back, imagining adventures and still struggling to find balance between introversion and extroversion.

“When Oliver found his egg…” on the playground, mint-green backgrounds signifying Oliver’s flight into fancy slowly grow larger until they take up entire spreads; Oliver’s creature, white and dinosaurlike with orange polka dots, grows larger with them. Their adventures include sharing treats, sailing the seas and going into outer space. A classmate’s yell brings him back to reality, where readers see him sitting on top of a rock. Even considering Schmid’s scribbly style, readers can almost see the wheels turning in his head as he ponders the girl and whether or not to give up his solitary play. “But when Oliver found his rock… // Oliver imagined many adventures // with all his friends!” This last is on a double gatefold that opens to show the children enjoying the creature’s slippery curves. A final wordless spread depicts all the children sitting on rocks, expressions gleeful, wondering, waiting, hopeful. The illustrations, done in pastel pencil and digital color, again make masterful use of white space and page turns, although this tale is not nearly as funny or tongue-in-cheek as Oliver and His Alligator (2013), nor is its message as clear and immediately accessible to children.

Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for all children but sadly isn’t. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7573-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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