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MAMA LOVES HER LITTLE LLAMA

Sentimental and derivative.

A baby llama queries other animals in search of mama.

A woolly cria asks a cow, a pig, a cat, and a horse the same question: “Are you my mama?” Each animal responds in the negative with a rhymed retort: “No, I’m a pig. That’s my gig!” The smiling baby llama always appears on recto with eyes closed so it’s beneath two plush llama ears securely attached to the top of the back cover. This gimmick is the only new feature in the overplayed baby-llama–and-mama genre, and only the very youngest listeners will be surprised when the cria finds its mama and she declares her love for the baby. The companion title, the slightly more engaging and original I Love You Little Monster! also embeds plush elements into the back cover, but this time it is monster horns. On each right-hand page, a different monster with the same green horns appears. The theme here is the hoary one of unconditional love, as the unseen first-person narrator proclaims that love will be bestowed even if the monster in question gets angry, jumps in mud puddles, or causes bathtub floods. Magsamen’s signature look of faux stitch-work and brightly colored lettering is at play in both the images and on key words in the text. Hearts are sprinkled throughout the sunny art.

Sentimental and derivative. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-62917-0

Page Count: 12

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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FAMILIES BELONG

A joyful celebration.

Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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THE ITSY BITSY BUNNY

Leave the hopping to Peter Cottontail and sing the original song instead.

An Easter-themed board-book parody of the traditional nursery rhyme.

Unfortunately, this effort is just as sugary and uninspired as The Itsy Bitsy Snowman, offered by the same pair in 2015. A cheerful white bunny hops through a pastel world to distribute candy and treats for Easter but spills his baskets. A hedgehog, fox, mouse, and various birds come to the bunny’s rescue, retrieving the candy, helping to devise a distribution plan, and hiding the eggs. Then magically, they all fly off in a hot air balloon as the little animals in the village emerge to find the treats. Without any apparent purpose, the type changes color to highlight some words. For very young children every word is new, so highlighting “tiny tail” or “friends” makes no sense. Although the text is meant to be sung, the words don't quite fit the rhythm of the original song. Moreover, there are not clear motions to accompany the text; without the fingerplay movements, this book has none of the satisfying verve of the traditional version.

Leave the hopping to Peter Cottontail and sing the original song instead. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-5621-0

Page Count: 16

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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