Mostly funny and fun to read but slightly off-kilter.

READ REVIEW

THE LION INSIDE

A timid mouse decides that he must risk confronting a lion in order to make himself heard.

After setting the scene on the African veldt, rhyming verse informs readers that under a “mighty flat rock” there lives, in a “tinyful house,” the “littlest, quietest, / meekest brown mouse.” Next, readers learn that the mouse’s life is lonely and even dangerous because no one notices him. (He is depicted being stepped on and sat upon, ballooning, Pepto-pink speech bubbles expressing his pain.) His miserable life is contrasted to that of the lion on top of the rock, who resembles a benign version of Scar in Disney’s The Lion King—indeed, the illustrations borrow much from 20th-century animation aesthetics. There ensue funny pictures of the lion flexing his muscles and preening. Boastful, strong, and arrogant, he uses his roar to cement his leadership. The mouse decides that if he learns to roar, he too will “make friends and join in.” His large, yellow eyes glow with fear as he looks up from his book, How to Roar, and realizes that only a visit to the lion will enable him to learn that skill. He fears being the lion’s dinner, “but if you want things to change, / you first have to change you.” This odd mix of realistic fears and glib platitudes continues as two expected outcomes (neither one dire) occur, the greatest platitude of all contained in the final, unprovable lines: “no matter your size, / We all have a mouse / AND a lion inside.”

Mostly funny and fun to read but slightly off-kilter. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 31, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-87350-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way.

THE PIGEON HAS TO GO TO SCHOOL!

From the Pigeon series

All the typical worries and excuses kids have about school are filtered through Willems’ hysterical, bus-loving Pigeon.

Told mostly in speech balloons, the bird’s monologue will have kids (and their caregivers) in stitches at Pigeon’s excuses. From already knowing everything (except whatever question readers choose to provide in response to “Go ahead—ask me a question. / Any question!”) to fearing learning too much (“My head might pop off”), Pigeon’s imagination has run wild. Readers familiar with Pigeon will recognize the muted, matte backgrounds that show off the bird’s shenanigans so well. As in previous outings, Willems varies the size of the pigeon on the page to help communicate emotion, the bird teeny small on the double-page spread that illustrates the confession that “I’m… / scared.” And Pigeon’s eight-box rant about all the perils of school (“The unknown stresses me out, dude”) is marvelously followed by the realization (complete with lightbulb thought bubble) that school is the place for students to practice, with experts, all those skills they don’t yet have. But it is the ending that is so Willems, so Pigeon, and so perfect. Pigeon’s last question is “Well, HOW am I supposed to get there, anyway!?!” Readers will readily guess both the answer and Pigeon’s reaction.

Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04645-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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