An imaginative, leisurely paced tale.

READ REVIEW

ASTRID AND THE SKY CALF

A young physician learns a valuable lesson about emotional care.

Dr. Astrid, a blue-haired white girl in a yellow lab coat, tends to her Magical Beasts and makes sure they’re always in the best of spirits. One day a sky calf (a substantial-looking young bovine with yellow wings) flies in through her window and stands there, gazing at the young physician with a worried expression. Dr. Astrid asks what’s wrong, but the sky calf doesn’t hint to any illness. Dr. Astrid checks the sky calf’s temperature and heartbeat. She then uses her handy sticky tape to fix the problem, but the sky calf doesn’t respond to the treatment. Instead of trying to treat the sky calf physically, Dr. Astrid decides to spend time with the sky calf: playing games, coloring, and just keeping the calf company. The ensuing picture book is a pleasant ode to the understated delight of just spending time with a friend. The illustrations are drawn with thick scratchy lines and colored with broad strokes; Astrid is the white of the paper. The style evokes the hand-drawn art many little ones bring home from school to put upon the fridge. The book’s pace is calmly measured, best read on a lazy sunny day—the kind when readers might find sky calves flying through their own windows.

An imaginative, leisurely paced tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78628-354-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Child's Play

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for...

OLIVER AND HIS EGG

Oliver, of first-day-of-school alligator fame, is back, imagining adventures and still struggling to find balance between introversion and extroversion.

“When Oliver found his egg…” on the playground, mint-green backgrounds signifying Oliver’s flight into fancy slowly grow larger until they take up entire spreads; Oliver’s creature, white and dinosaurlike with orange polka dots, grows larger with them. Their adventures include sharing treats, sailing the seas and going into outer space. A classmate’s yell brings him back to reality, where readers see him sitting on top of a rock. Even considering Schmid’s scribbly style, readers can almost see the wheels turning in his head as he ponders the girl and whether or not to give up his solitary play. “But when Oliver found his rock… // Oliver imagined many adventures // with all his friends!” This last is on a double gatefold that opens to show the children enjoying the creature’s slippery curves. A final wordless spread depicts all the children sitting on rocks, expressions gleeful, wondering, waiting, hopeful. The illustrations, done in pastel pencil and digital color, again make masterful use of white space and page turns, although this tale is not nearly as funny or tongue-in-cheek as Oliver and His Alligator (2013), nor is its message as clear and immediately accessible to children.

Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for all children but sadly isn’t. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7573-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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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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