A message for the bossiest of friends but also a quiet lesson in valuing differences.

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ALLY-SAURUS & THE VERY BOSSY MONSTER

The tiny tot–turned-dinosaur (in her imagination) is back, this time facing a new challenge: a domineering friend.

Ally, or as she likes to be called “Ally-saurus,” can’t wait to play outside. After brushing her straight black hair into pigtails and chomping on her breakfast (things dinosaurs do not particularly like to do), she roars and stomps to meet her friends. As in the first outing (Ally-Saurus and the First Day of School, 2015) Torrey uses rough crayoned markings to signify the characters’ innermost passions, an enormously effective visual device. Ally has pink dinosaur spikes down her back to go along with her pink “ROAR!” Her friend Kai dances across a grand stage (the porch) in a purple top hat and tails, shouting, “TA-DA!” Kai’s little brother, Petey, clutches a yellow teddy and triumphantly yells, “BEAR!” But when Maddie shows up, everything changes. Maddie likes to tell everyone what to do. She decides the group will play monsters. She will be the queen monster (with her imagined crown and shaggy suit, she is reminiscent of another youngster who likes wild rumpuses). But when it gets to be too much, Ally-saurus’ “ROARRRRRRRRRR!” protects all her friends. It gives her the courage to stand up to Maddie once and for all. All the children have paper-white skin; Maddie’s hair is in a light pageboy, and Kai’s and Petey’s hair is close-cropped, black, and tightly curled, suggesting that they are black.

A message for the bossiest of friends but also a quiet lesson in valuing differences. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2123-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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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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Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations.

I BELIEVE I CAN

Diversity is the face of this picture book designed to inspire confidence in children.

Fans of Byers and Bobo’s I Am Enough (2018) will enjoy this book that comes with a universal message of self-acceptance. A line of children practices ballet at the barre; refreshingly, two of the four are visibly (and adorably) pudgy. Another group tends a couple of raised beds; one of them wears hijab. Two more children coax a trepidatious friend down a steep slide. Further images, of children pretending to be pirates, dragons, mimes, playing superhero and soccer, and cooking, are equally endearing, but unfortunately they don’t add enough heft to set the book apart from other empowerment books for children. Though the illustrations shine, the text remains pedagogic and bland. Clichés abound: “When I believe in myself, there’s simply nothing I can’t do”; “Sometimes I am right, and sometimes I am wrong. / But even when I make mistakes, I learn from them to make me strong.” The inclusion of children with varying abilities, religions, genders, body types, and racial presentations creates an inviting tone that makes the book palatable. It’s hard to argue with the titular sentiment, but this is not the only book of its ilk on the shelf.

Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266713-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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