Another creative blending of real-life oceanography and gentle fantasy in a smart and entertaining series.

KOBEE MANATEE

SHIPWRECK SEA FRIENDS

In this latest installment of a science- and nature-based picture book series for young children, a curious manatee journeys with old and new aquatic friends to the site of a sunken ship.

Fresh from an eventful, hurricane-tossed swim from Key West, Florida, to the Bahamas, Kobee Manatee heads out for another undersea adventure in this third volume that continues the informative series by author Thayer (Kobee Manatee: A Wild Weather Adventure, 2015, etc.) and illustrator Gallegos (Ernie’s Wish Tail, 2016, etc.). Accompanied by his pals Pablo, a hermit crab, and Tess, a sea horse, Kobee sets out for San Juan, Puerto Rico, in search of the wreckage of the SS Antonio López, a real-life, 19th-century ship sunk during the Spanish-American War. (Its description is one of “Kobee’s Fun Facts,” tidbits that are set apart from the story’s text and highlighted throughout the book’s colorful pages.) On the way to the ship, the band is joined by a lonely octopus named Ben. When Kobee is trapped by a beam while swimming through the wreck, Ben and new friends Alis, a playful goldentail moray eel, and Sandy, a nurse shark, try to help; the arrival of an old friend, Chester, a giant plankton-eating whale shark, saves the day. As with the first two books, the full-page images of ocean flora and fauna and the exaggerated features of Kobee and friends engage the eye in a rich palette of acrylic colors, and the “Fun Facts” scrolls offer depth without denying the young audience a lively story. Most of the well-conceived morsels of information here, again contributed by oceanographer and documentarian Fabien Cousteau, identify species of fish. They include some that children might recognize—lionfish, sawfish, parrot fish—and others likely to be new to them. Among the unfamiliar denizens of the deep: a damselfish, peppermint basslet, spotted eagle ray, and blue-striped grunts, which Tess describes as looking “like lemons with blue lines swimming.” A link to Cousteau’s Ocean Learning Center is included for any reader interested in further exploration. 

Another creative blending of real-life oceanography and gentle fantasy in a smart and entertaining series.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9971239-3-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Thompson Mill Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2017

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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

CARPENTER'S HELPER

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S HALLOWEEN

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 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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