Genial but forgettable.

Even rough animals need affection.

Rhyming verses with bang-on scansion declare that animals who are considered noncuddly still need cuddles: “Despite their lumpy, bumpy hide, / toothy mouths stretched open wide, // just like me and just like you, / crocodiles need kisses too.” These porcupines, rattlesnakes, vultures, sharks, tigers, tarantulas, and gorillas also need squeezes, nuzzles, smooches, and tickles. The animals’ textually described dangerousness juxtaposes with the art, which shows gentle creatures: A rattlesnake’s “pointy fangs” are too rounded to puncture anything; tigers evoke mischievous toddlers; a porcupine’s “prickly spines, / sharpened quills raised up in lines,” far from being raised, actually angle downward as the critter peers meekly out from behind a tree. A shark fin is daunting, and a tarantula’s huge legs crawling out toward readers may startle them, but both sharks and tarantulas have affable smiles and harmless, curved bodies after each page turn reveals the whole creature. An ending twist changes the crocodile into a (brown-skinned) child in a crocodile suit, receiving hugs from a (lighter-skinned) adult. Dullaghan’s illustrations use acrylic paint texture well. However, they have a casual air and a lack of punch that, instead of creating meaningful juxtaposition with the verses, dilute the text’s hardiness and specificity. Sometimes the art leans toward the saccharine—rattlesnake bodies forming a heart—and Colby’s cloying ultimate moral that “children need affection too” isn’t particularly useful to child or adult readers.

Genial but forgettable. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-451-48007-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020


Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes.

A lift-the-flap book gives the littlest trick-or-treaters some practice identifying partygoers under their costumes.

Little Blue Truck and his buddy Toad are off to a party, and they invite readers (and a black cat) along for the ride: “ ‘Beep! Beep! Beep!’ / says Little Blue. / ‘It’s Halloween!’ / You come, too.” As they drive, they are surprised (and joined) by many of their friends in costume. “Who’s that in a tutu / striking a pose / up on the tiniest / tips of her toes? / Under the mask / who do you see?” Lifting the flap unmasks a friend: “ ‘Quack!’ says the duck. / ‘It’s me! It’s me!’ ” The sheep is disguised as a clown, the cow’s a queen, the pig’s a witch, the hen and her chick are pirates, and the horse is a dragon. Not to be left out, Little Blue has a costume, too. The flaps are large and sturdy, and enough of the animals’ characteristic features are visible under and around the costumes that little ones will be able to make successful guesses even on the first reading. Lovely curvy shapes and autumn colors fade to dusky blues as night falls, and children are sure to notice the traditional elements of a Halloween party: apple bobbing, lit jack-o’-lanterns, and punch and treats.

Beloved Little Blue takes a bit of the mystery—and fear—out of Halloween costumes. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: July 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-544-77253-3

Page Count: 16

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016


Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable.

You think you know shapes? Animals? Blend them together, and you might see them both a little differently!

What a mischievous twist on a concept book! With wordplay and a few groan-inducing puns, Neal creates connections among animals and shapes that are both unexpected and so seemingly obvious that readers might wonder why they didn’t see them all along. Of course, a “lazy turtle” meeting an oval would create the side-splitting combo of a “SLOW-VAL.” A dramatic page turn transforms a deeply saturated, clean-lined green oval by superimposing a head and turtle shell atop, with watery blue ripples completing the illusion. Minimal backgrounds and sketchy, impressionistic detailing keep the focus right on the zany animals. Beginning with simple shapes, the geometric forms become more complicated as the book advances, taking readers from a “soaring bird” that meets a triangle to become a “FLY-ANGLE” to a “sleepy lion” nonagon “YAWN-AGON.” Its companion text, Animal Colors, delves into color theory, this time creating entirely hybrid animals, such as the “GREEN WHION” with maned head and whale’s tail made from a “blue whale and a yellow lion.” It’s a compelling way to visualize color mixing, and like Animal Shapes, it’s got verve. Who doesn’t want to shout out that a yellow kangaroo/green moose blend is a “CHARTREUSE KANGAMOOSE”?

Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0534-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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