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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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

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

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A sweet, simple story with a nicely offbeat heroine.

THE FRIEND SHIP

All the animals are welcome to come aboard.

Hedgehog seems very lonely, “curled up in a prickly little ball in a lonely little nook of a lonely little tree.” When she overhears a sympathetic conversation about friendship “out there,” she perks up, picturing a beautiful “Friend Ship.” Hedgehog sets sail with a curious beaver in a small boat to find it. Before long, the duo spots a herd of migrating deer on the shore. Hedgehog asks if they’ve seen the Friend Ship; all reply that they could use a friend and hop aboard. Next, the company spies a rat, who asks to join them. They sail in multiple directions to no avail. Hedgehog begins to lose hope, but her companions convince her to persist. She spots a small island, its only resident an elephant. Hedgehog swims the distance and asks the elephant about the Friend Ship. The elephant points at Hedgehog’s small boat full of animals and asks, “Isn’t that it—right over there?” It’s a lightning-bolt moment. Hedgehog invites the elephant aboard, and they sail west, celebrating all the while…into the sunset together. Yeh makes effective use of dialogue and repetition, investing her characters with personality with just a few lines. Groenink employs sunny, warm hues that increase in saturation as the boat fills and Hedgehog becomes surrounded by friends.

A sweet, simple story with a nicely offbeat heroine. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4847-0726-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2016

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