Immersive illustrations and rich poetry urge young readers to slow down and appreciate nature.

NATSUMI'S SONG OF SUMMER

Poetry and art harmoniously evoke the simplicity of a summer friendship set in Japan.

Natsumi, a young peach-skinned girl with straight, dark hair, was born in lotus season. Her name means “the sea in summer,” and summer seems to run through her veins. She loves the heat, the outdoor activities, “the cool bursts / of plum rain, heavy and sweet.” Eye-catching illustrations, done in a seasonal palette of pinks, greens, blues, and purples, capture the flora and fauna of these few months—especially the cicadas. Natsumi is intrigued by these fleeting flyers and seeks them out when they arrive. On her birthday, her cousin Jill, a girl with brown skin and curly hair, comes on a plane to visit, and Natsumi worries whether they will be friends, whether Jill will like Natsumi’s world. Long stalks of bamboo and swaying paper lanterns intersect the page here to denote Natsumi’s anxiety. But in fact, Jill and Natsumi fit together like sun and summer, eating watermelon on the beach; dancing, kimono-clad, in a festival; and watching fireworks. But will Jill be frightened by the unfamiliar, buzzing cicadas? Their friendship unfolds page by page as they build a summer of memories together. Weston tells this sweet story in a sequence of tanka, a traditional Japanese poetic form that builds on haiku with an extra couplet. Weston explains the form in the backmatter and provides information about the cicada’s significance in Japanese culture.

Immersive illustrations and rich poetry urge young readers to slow down and appreciate nature. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6541-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Tundra

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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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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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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