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

FREE

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. 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

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

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