Wild, yes, but a gentle read, too.

When the narrator and Granddad catsit for the day, things get a little wild.

In this companion title to Free (2021), the unnamed narrator (who presents White) is excited for “taking-care-of-the-cat day” with Granddad (who also appears White). The child excitedly plans to “play with her, feed her, and cuddle her!” Alas, these plans evaporate because, as Granddad explains, “You can’t make a cat do anything it doesn’t want to do.” When they try to cuddle the contrary cat by the fire, she dashes away and escapes out the window. At this point, the story shifts away from (potentially dire) reality as Granddad and grandchild pursue the fleeing feline and end up in a fantastic jungle. They dance with a bevy of animals at “a wild party” complete with a lion and other cats playing instruments—including, of course, a fiddle. The bipedal lions, tigers, and bear in one scene never seem threatening, though a tiger on the cover might lead readers to think it poses a threat in the story. The illustrations strike a balance between cheerily daft (two tigers wearing silly hats boogie happily) and sublime (the narrator swings on a vine past glistening, foaming waterfalls). As in Usher’s other picture books, this one has a generous trim size to invite shared reading, and the watercolor-and-ink illustrations seem to channel Quentin Blake’s style. (And the cat is fine.)

Wild, yes, but a gentle read, too. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-2000-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Templar/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021


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


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 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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