An often engaging work that may help to allay fears of readers young and old.


A young girl dislikes a loud storm but uses her imagination to calm herself and her military veteran father in Brehl’s illustrated children’s book.

Risa is playing at the beach when a thunderstorm approaches. She runs to her house and says, “A STORM Daddy! Make it stop!” He tells her that he wishes that he could and that it will be over soon. He reassures her that she’s safe and encourages her to play in her room. As the wind howls and the waves pound, Risa tells her stuffed elephant, Ivan, not to be scared. When there are loud thunderclaps, she runs to Daddy again. Risa feels his heart racing, and he says that when he was young, he loved storms, and “skies were stages for my imagination.” (Hirsch’s upbeat illustrations show clouds playing instruments and riding on a ship and a whale.) But Daddy says his stories won’t help Risa, because they changed when he was a soldier; this is demonstrated by images of menacing animals. When the youngster looks at the skies, she sees golden elephants, including a baby one that looks like Ivan, led by a daddy elephant; Risa declares that the elephant family is safe, and the daddy elephant is shown fending off dangerous creatures. Daddy claims he also sees the golden elephants, and now his heartbeat is steady. Over the course of this book, Brehl presents a story that may help readers whose experiences mirror the characters’—particularly those in military families with members who struggle with PTSD. In the illustrations, Ivan, the stuffed elephant, is delightfully drawn with a heart on his body; his eyes widen with surprise at a loud crash, as if he’s a living creature. Interestingly, Risa’s father is depicted in Hirsch’s work as having a prosthetic leg, which is never directly addressed in the text—an effective narrative choice. Lavender shading is intriguingly used to indicate fear.

An often engaging work that may help to allay fears of readers young and old.

Pub Date: July 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-952894-32-9

Page Count: 34

Publisher: Pen It! Publications, LLC

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2022

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Little Blue’s fans will enjoy the animal sounds and counting opportunities, but it’s the sparkling lights on the truck’s own...


The sturdy Little Blue Truck is back for his third adventure, this time delivering Christmas trees to his band of animal pals.

The truck is decked out for the season with a Christmas wreath that suggests a nose between headlights acting as eyeballs. Little Blue loads up with trees at Toad’s Trees, where five trees are marked with numbered tags. These five trees are counted and arithmetically manipulated in various ways throughout the rhyming story as they are dropped off one by one to Little Blue’s friends. The final tree is reserved for the truck’s own use at his garage home, where he is welcomed back by the tree salestoad in a neatly circular fashion. The last tree is already decorated, and Little Blue gets a surprise along with readers, as tiny lights embedded in the illustrations sparkle for a few seconds when the last page is turned. Though it’s a gimmick, it’s a pleasant surprise, and it fits with the retro atmosphere of the snowy country scenes. The short, rhyming text is accented with colored highlights, red for the animal sounds and bright green for the numerical words in the Christmas-tree countdown.

Little Blue’s fans will enjoy the animal sounds and counting opportunities, but it’s the sparkling lights on the truck’s own tree that will put a twinkle in a toddler’s eyes. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-32041-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable.


You think you know shapes? Animals? Blend them together, and you might see them both a little differently!

What a mischievous twist on a concept book! With wordplay and a few groan-inducing puns, Neal creates connections among animals and shapes that are both unexpected and so seemingly obvious that readers might wonder why they didn’t see them all along. Of course, a “lazy turtle” meeting an oval would create the side-splitting combo of a “SLOW-VAL.” A dramatic page turn transforms a deeply saturated, clean-lined green oval by superimposing a head and turtle shell atop, with watery blue ripples completing the illusion. Minimal backgrounds and sketchy, impressionistic detailing keep the focus right on the zany animals. Beginning with simple shapes, the geometric forms become more complicated as the book advances, taking readers from a “soaring bird” that meets a triangle to become a “FLY-ANGLE” to a “sleepy lion” nonagon “YAWN-AGON.” Its companion text, Animal Colors, delves into color theory, this time creating entirely hybrid animals, such as the “GREEN WHION” with maned head and whale’s tail made from a “blue whale and a yellow lion.” It’s a compelling way to visualize color mixing, and like Animal Shapes, it’s got verve. Who doesn’t want to shout out that a yellow kangaroo/green moose blend is a “CHARTREUSE KANGAMOOSE”?

Innovative and thoroughly enjoyable. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4998-0534-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little Bee Books

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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