An engaging, beautifully illustrated tale of believing in yourself told from the perspective of a cactus.

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An insecure cactus learns to love the spines that make her different in this picture book.

Libby, a cactus, lives on a windowsill in Abigail’s kitchen. Libby is jealous of the flowers in Abigail’s garden, with their soft leaves and colorful blossoms. When Abigail gets another kitchen plant, an African violet, Libby feels less confident than ever, especially after the newcomer’s unkind words. When Abigail’s cat, Prea, eats some of Violet’s blossoms, the plant is understandably upset. By the time Violet’s blossoms return, Libby has grown a lovely flower, too. And when Prea tries to take a bite of Libby’s bloom, her spines save the day—and Violet praises the cactus’s powerful defense feature. Veteran author Macaulay and debut children’s book writer Risk use a straightforward style, with British spellings (colourful) and vocabulary (parcel) that may give young American readers pause. The bright illustrations provide plenty of context for figuring out unfamiliar terms. The pronunciation for Lobivia Jajoiana (“Low-BIV-ee-uh Jah-joee-AHN-nuh”), Libby’s cactus species, is helpfully provided in the dialogue. Bagshaw’s highly textured digital art mixes realistic details—in the backgrounds and the depictions of Prea and Abigail, who appears to be White—with cartoonish faces on the plants. This technique effectively offers readers a connection to the protagonist (while never making the feline’s flower-eating too scary). The moral of valuing your differences—even when others initially judge you because of them—comes through clearly.

An engaging, beautifully illustrated tale of believing in yourself told from the perspective of a cactus.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-987976-74-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Mirror World Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021


Little Blue’s fans will enjoy the animal sounds and counting opportunities, but it’s the sparkling lights on the truck’s own...

The sturdy Little Blue Truck is back for his third adventure, this time delivering Christmas trees to his band of animal pals.

The truck is decked out for the season with a Christmas wreath that suggests a nose between headlights acting as eyeballs. Little Blue loads up with trees at Toad’s Trees, where five trees are marked with numbered tags. These five trees are counted and arithmetically manipulated in various ways throughout the rhyming story as they are dropped off one by one to Little Blue’s friends. The final tree is reserved for the truck’s own use at his garage home, where he is welcomed back by the tree salestoad in a neatly circular fashion. The last tree is already decorated, and Little Blue gets a surprise along with readers, as tiny lights embedded in the illustrations sparkle for a few seconds when the last page is turned. Though it’s a gimmick, it’s a pleasant surprise, and it fits with the retro atmosphere of the snowy country scenes. The short, rhyming text is accented with colored highlights, red for the animal sounds and bright green for the numerical words in the Christmas-tree countdown.

Little Blue’s fans will enjoy the animal sounds and counting opportunities, but it’s the sparkling lights on the truck’s own tree that will put a twinkle in a toddler’s eyes. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-32041-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014


Sentimental but effective.

A book aimed at easing separation anxiety and reinforcing bonds.

Twins Liza and Jeremy awaken during a thunderstorm and go to their mother for comfort. She reassures them that they’re safe and says, “You know we’re always together, no matter what,” when they object to returning to bed. She then explains that when she was a child her mother told her about the titular “Invisible String,” encouraging them to envision it as a link between them no matter what. “People who love each other are always connected by a very special String made of love,” she tells them, reinforcing this idea as they proceed to imagine various scenarios, fantastic and otherwise, that might cause them to be separated in body. She also affirms that this string can “reach all the way to Uncle Brian in heaven” and that it doesn’t go away if she’s angry with them or when they have conflicts. As they go to bed, reassured, the children, who present white, imagine their friends and diverse people around the world connected with invisible strings, promoting a vision of global unity and empathy. While the writing often feels labored and needlessly repetitive, Lew-Vriethoff’s playful cartoon art enhances and lightens the message-driven text, which was originally published in 2000 with illustrations by Geoff Stevenson.

Sentimental but effective. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 30, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-48623-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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