A FAMILY IS A FAMILY IS A FAMILY

A picture-book affirmation of family diversity.

The opening double-page spread depicts a diverse class of 13 children sitting at their desks in a circle when their teacher asks them to share “what we thought made our family special.” The first-person narrator silently worries. “My family is not like everybody else’s.” The accompanying illustration shows one child, seated at a desk across the circle from the teacher, with eyes downcast, red cheeks, and closed body language. The following spreads are narrated by individual classmates who deliver matter-of-fact, often humorous commentary on their families, augmented by Leng’s appealing cartoon illustrations that lend humor and vitality to characterization. The broad diversity of family constellations is refreshing and ultimately soothing to the worried child from the first spread. After hearing classmates talk about having two moms, two dads, many siblings, divorced parents, a blended family, single parents, mixed-race families, a grandmother who’s “my everything,” and more, the narrator recalls a time when a woman at the park “asked my foster mother to point out her real children. ‘Oh I don’t have any imaginary children,’ Mom said. ‘All my children are real.’ ” This good-natured but firm response is both empowering and instructive, as is the welcome inclusion of a foster family in this thoughtful, needed book.

A-plus fabulous. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-55498-794-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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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 good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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