Next book


Opening itself up to myriad conversations and interpretations, Free is fabulous.

A child and grandfather help a fine feathered friend.

The child’s first-person narration recounts the discovery of a sickly bird one morning. The grandfather and child (who both appear White) nurse the bird back to health throughout the course of the day. Each time they do something for the bird, they leave it outside to set it free, but it returns to them. Finally, the grandfather suggests that they search for a tree like one he sees alongside a picture of the same type of bird in a bird book. At this point in the story, the colorful watercolor-and-ink illustrations take a turn toward the fantastic, with the child and grandfather traversing rocky, mountainous terrain to reach the tree and the mild, English pastel palette taking on dramatic tones. Soon after they reach their destination, an enormous flock of colorful birds (depicted on the cover) alights on the branches, with the human characters perched alongside them. They all enjoy a “midnight feast” of oversized berries and then the birds fly the child and grandfather “all the way home” for breakfast. Usher’s art, which bears a resemblance to Quentin Blake’s style, makes the most of panels to show sequential movement in this scene. The mechanics of the feat are not quite clear, but the thrill is. The bird they rescued stays with the flock, but there’s no sadness in that fact (though the child hopes that the bird “visits again tomorrow”).

Opening itself up to myriad conversations and interpretations, Free is fabulous. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1704-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Templar/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

Next book


Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

Next 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. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

Close Quickview