A merry, witty celebration of chaos and grumpiness.

HOTEL BRUCE

A cantankerous bear’s home is once again wrested from his control.

Even though he’s a bear, Bruce accompanies four geese south every winter for their yearly migration. Personally he “would have preferred to hibernate,” but he’s their mom (Mother Bruce, 2015). Returning one spring—on a bus, naturally—they discover that mice have turned their (human-style) house into a woodland hotel. The ensuing commotion includes possum pillow fights, a beaver eating at the table—well, eating the table—a fox trying to coax turtle-guests into a pot of boiling water (“It’s a bath!”), and a tourist bus full of elephants. As cheekily funny as the illustrations are, even funnier is their juxtaposition with the often understated narration. “It was a long night” shows Bruce in his one-bear–sized bed with four unrelated animals—the porcupine wanting to snuggle, the rabbit needing to pee—plus two of his own kids. When the mice-proprietors urge Bruce to check out (“Our bellhops will see to your luggage”), Bruce’s own children—the geese, who, though technically adults, act like toddlers—appear in bellhop uniforms. Dialogue is in speech bubbles. With deftly drawn lines that vary from bold to fine over tertiary colors, Higgins creates touchable textures (wallpaper; hardwood floors) and hilarious facial expressions, including Bruce’s perpetually scowling unibrow.

A merry, witty celebration of chaos and grumpiness. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4847-4362-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride.

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THE PIGEON WILL RIDE THE ROLLER COASTER!

The Pigeon is on an emotional—and physical—roller coaster.

Since learning about the existence of roller coasters, he’s become giddy with excitement. The Pigeon prepares mentally: He’ll need a ticket and “exemplary patience” to wait in line. He envisions zooming up and down and careening through dizzying turns and loops. Then, he imagines his emotions afterward: exhilaration, post-ride blues, pride at having accomplished such a feat, and enthusiasm at the prospect of riding again. (He’ll also feel dizzy and nauseous.) All this before the Pigeon ever sets claw on an actual coaster. So…will he really try it? Are roller coasters fun? When the moment comes, everything seems to go according to plan: waiting in line, settling into the little car, THEN—off he goes! Though the ride itself isn’t quite what the Pigeon expected, it will delight readers. Wearing his feelings on his wing and speaking directly to the audience in first person, the Pigeon describes realistic thoughts and emotions about waiting and guessing about the unknown—common childhood experiences. No sentiment is misplaced; kids will relate to Pigeon’s eagerness and apprehension. The ending falls somewhat flat, but the whole humorous point is that an underwhelming adventure can still be thrilling enough to warrant repeating. Willems’ trademark droll illustrations will have readers giggling. The roller-coaster attendant is light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4549-4686-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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