Clumsy but not charmless.

READ REVIEW

THE THINGS

Two Things overcome mistrust to become friends.

A red Thing—smiley, bean-shaped, and bespectacled—lives a solitary existence. It has two friends, a cactus and a moose shadow puppet. The cactus is nice, if a bit hard to hug, and Moose is friendly but prone to disappear. Thing also apparently doesn’t know what it looks like: “Am I red all over?” it asks Cactus. “I wish I could see in the broken mirror.” But one day Thing looks out the window to the beach and sees an Other Thing, identical except for its sea-green tint. Thing is immediately concerned, deciding that “Other Thing doesn’t look like us. Other thing has big floppy ears like these. Other Thing wears silly clothes. Just like these.” (Thing points to its own floppy ears and silly clothes.) Thing decides that “It is definitely a most dangerously dangerous Other Thing!” But when Moose disappears again, Thing goes in search of it, and Other Thing offers comfort. That’s all it takes for the two to become lifelong friends. The Things have a certain strange cuteness about them, but this is an extremely rudimentary and uneven attempt to explore xenophobia and prejudice. The lack of significant character development and the absurdly simple resolution to an almost nonexistent conflict mar its success, especially with the undeveloped broken-mirror metaphor.

Clumsy but not charmless. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78628-190-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Child's Play

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Sadly, the storytelling runs aground.

LITTLE RED SLEIGH

A little red sleigh has big Christmas dreams.

Although the detailed, full-color art doesn’t anthropomorphize the protagonist (which readers will likely identify as a sled and not a sleigh), a close third-person text affords the object thoughts and feelings while assigning feminine pronouns. “She longed to become Santa’s big red sleigh,” reads an early line establishing the sleigh’s motivation to leave her Christmas-shop home for the North Pole. Other toys discourage her, but she perseveres despite creeping self-doubt. A train and truck help the sleigh along, and when she wishes she were big, fast, and powerful like them, they offer encouragement and counsel patience. When a storm descends after the sleigh strikes out on her own, an unnamed girl playing in the snow brings her to a group of children who all take turns riding the sleigh down a hill. When the girl brings her home, the sleigh is crestfallen she didn’t reach the North Pole. A convoluted happily-ever-after ending shows a note from Santa that thanks the sleigh for giving children joy and invites her to the North Pole next year. “At last she understood what she was meant to do. She would build her life up spreading joy, one child at a time.” Will she leave the girl’s house to be gifted to other children? Will she stay and somehow also reach ever more children? Readers will be left wondering. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 31.8% of actual size.)

Sadly, the storytelling runs aground. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72822-355-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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