From the Owl in a Straw Hat series

An owl and a unicorn commit to helping a bullied jackalope. 

This second entry in Anaya’s Owl in a Straw Hat series takes on bullying with a cast of extremely self-aware creatures that includes Ollie the owl, Uno the unicorn, and Jackie the jackalope. One morning, Jackie decides to leave school after being bullied. In response, Nana—Ollie’s grandmother and the teacher at the local animal school—performs an in-your-face finger-wagging lecture for the already-knowledgeable children, shaming them into acting to bring Jackie back from across the Rainbow Bridge. In a weak plot that follows a formulaic and unsurprising three-task arc, Ollie and Uno must deal with the Three Guardians before reaching the land across the Rainbow Bridge (not, here, a metaphor for death) and convincing Jackie to leave the place where there is no “fear, envy, or greed” to return to school, where she was sent by her parents to “learn how others live” so “there will be less prejudice.” Popular Mexican characters such as La Llorona, La Huesuda, and El Kookoóee (El Cucuy) appear as the wise guardians. Evidently not one to cull words, Anaya’s excessive text results in two-column text-only spreads that will inspire readers to skip the page. El Moisés’ illustrations feature many New Mexican, Mexican, and American cultural elements yet they lack dynamism.

Pedantic and predictable. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-89013-642-3

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Museum of New Mexico

Review Posted Online: Oct. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?