Quietly, beautifully told and deeply satisfying.

A lost package finally arrives where it was intended to go.

An elementary-age New Yorker sends a gift to a friend in the Bay Area. Ho and Lanan skillfully describe and depict, respectively, the procedures of the U.S. Postal Service as the box begins to make its way to its destination. Alas, a pothole in the road to the airport causes the box to fall out of the truck. It lands in a puddle and is ignored until another kid finally spies it. Curious, the child picks it up, noting not only the recipient’s address, but also a drawing of the Golden Gate Bridge that the sender inked on it. Luckily, the box’s finder is moving to that place along with mom and dog! Guess what they’ll personally deliver when they get there? So the USPS doesn’t deliver the box, but this family does—and makes new friends. This sweetly simple, understated story is emotionally rich, a warm paean to the power of connections. Ho’s text places the box as its protagonist, giving Lanan ample space to develop the story around it. Her delicate watercolor illustrations provide clues to both cities, though interpretation requires sharp eyes and some prior knowledge (or a helpful caregiver). Engaging perspectives and effective uses of type add drama. The box’s sender and recipient both present Asian; the intervening kid and mom present Black. An afterword describes the author’s family’s moving connection to the U.S. Post Office. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Quietly, beautifully told and deeply satisfying. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-23135-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021


Kids will come for the construction vehicles and leave with some social-emotional skills.

Anthropomorphic trucks and construction vehicles work through big feelings.

“I’m Cranky,” announces a yellow crane—that’s our protagonist’s name and state of mind. It’s a big day at the construction site; everyone’s completing work on the construction of a new bridge. Friends like Zippy the cement mixer and Wheezy the forklift encourage Cranky to cheer up. But their positivity only makes Cranky feel worse. Cranky eats alone at lunch and feels increasingly isolated as the day goes on. When Zippy and Wheezy express concern, Cranky suddenly becomes even more upset: “Asking me what’s wrong makes me feel like it’s not okay for me to be cranky!” The others back off, and slowly, the grouchy crane’s mood starts to improve. And the friends are right there when Cranky is ready to open up. Bright colors, adorably anthropomorphic vehicles, and layouts that alternate between vignettes and full-page spreads will hold readers’ attention through what is a mostly introspective narrative. Tran imparts some solid messages, such as the importance of giving pals the space they need and communicating your needs, even if you choose not to share everything. Some of the nuance will be lost on younger readers, but the story will spark conversations with others. Construction puns such as “self-of-steam” should get some chuckles from older kids and adults.

Kids will come for the construction vehicles and leave with some social-emotional skills. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9780063256286

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023


Visual fun overrides textual inadequacies, making this an enjoyable read with an inarguably valuable message.

If it first you don’t succeed, try getting hit by lightning.

The smallest of his four brothers, Elbow Grease is an electric-powered monster truck with big dreams. Each one of his brothers is tougher, faster, smarter, or braver than he is, but at least he’s got enough “gumption” to spare. That comes in handy when he rushes off to join a Grand Prix in a fit of pique. And while in the end he doesn’t win, he does at least finish thanks to a conveniently placed lightning bolt. That inspires the true winner of the race (Elbow Grease’s hero, Big Wheels McGee) to declare that it’s gumption that’s the true mark of a winner. With his emphasis on trying new things, even if you fail, Cena, a professional wrestler and celebrity, earnestly offers a legitimately inspiring message even if his writing borders on the pedestrian. Fortunately McWilliam’s illustrations give a great deal of life, emotion, action, and mud splatters to the middling text. Humans are few and far between, but the trucks’ keeper, Mel the mechanic, is pictured as a brown-skinned woman with glasses.

Visual fun overrides textual inadequacies, making this an enjoyable read with an inarguably valuable message. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7350-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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