Oversimplifies a complex issue.


Children are given practice in reading facial expressions in this purposive picture book.

Though there are several children in the park outside Tom’s house, he’s lonely: “They didn’t play with Tom because he didn’t understand them, and they didn’t understand him.” Luckily, he’s got Boo, who wags her tail when she’s happy and whines when she is sad. One day, a girl in the park laughs as she watches Boo, as the dog’s beard is upturned in a smile. But Tom doesn’t understand. Sculpting the dog’s facial fur, Lydia emphasizes Boo’s smile and makes a direct connection: “Look! This smile means she’s happy.” She then models sad, angry, confused, and surprised with Boo’s beard and invites Tom to play. “ 'Okay,' said Tom. He pointed to his smile and said, ‘This means I’m happy.’ ” While readers may take away that there are some children who have not learned to read facial expressions, they may be frustrated when Lydia’s simplistic solution fails to work for every situation. Autism is never mentioned by name in the book (indeed, there is no letter to readers or parents and no backmatter), but it’s clear that Tom is on the spectrum, and parents of similar children may roll their eyes at the idea that teaching this skill is really this simple and one-and-done. Ironically, Straker’s illustrations show children with rather wooden expressions, and Boo’s aren’t all that clear, either.

Oversimplifies a complex issue. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63450-207-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sky Pony Press

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.


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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Necessary nourishment, infectiously joyous.

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Newbery honoree Barnes (Crown, illustrated by Gordon C. James, 2017) shows a black boy what to expect on his first day as “king” of kindergarten.

A young boy greets the reader with a sweet smile. “The morning sun blares through your window like a million brass trumpets. / It sits and shines behind your head—like a crown.” The text continues in second person while the boy gets ready for his first day—brushing “Ye Royal Chiclets,” dressing himself, eating breakfast with his mother and father before riding “a big yellow carriage” to “a grand fortress.” The kind teacher and the other children at his table are as eager to meet him as he is to meet them. Important topics are covered in class (“shapes, the alphabet, and the never-ending mystery of numbers”), but playing at recess and sharing with new friends at lunch are highlights too, followed by rest time and music. The playful illustrations use texture and shadow to great effect, with vibrant colors and dynamic shapes and lines sustaining readers’ interest on every page. Text and visuals work together beautifully to generate excitement and confidence in children getting ready to enter kindergarten. The little king’s smiling brown face is refreshing and heartwarming. The other children and parents are a mix of races; the teacher and staff are mostly brown.

Necessary nourishment, infectiously joyous. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4074-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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