This well-intended fable founders amid misrepresentation of basic desert botany.

READ REVIEW

CACTUS AND FLOWER

A BOOK ABOUT LIFE CYCLES

A saguaro cactus and its own flower become good friends and immerse themselves in the exuberance of life.

They share these “butterfly days” by admiring the many-colored desert sky, the bright stars at night, and the various wild birds and animals. Life is great for the two “buds” until the terrible day a petal is lost to the wind—soon to be followed by all. Cactus is inconsolable—not even a confluence of “all the butterflies in the world” can cheer him. Finally, memories of his friend start evoking joy instead of pain. When a new flower blooms, Cactus is ready to embrace life’s mysteries and inevitabilities. Williamson’s whimsical portrayal of Sonoran desert animals is the high point of this rather flat paean to the cycle of life. Disappointingly, the author/illustrator presents myriad inaccuracies that elicit first puzzlement and then eye rolls among readers familiar with the region. True saguaro flower clusters are ivory and yellow; the solitary pink flower looks like that of the hedgehog cactus—a different species altogether. Readers may also note that befriending the flower is akin to befriending one’s elbow—it is a part of the cactus. It does not, as indicated in the story, live side by side with the saguaro. Despite the subtitle, neither the life cycle of the saguaro nor its blossom’s is discussed in any way, shape, or form.

This well-intended fable founders amid misrepresentation of basic desert botany. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4337-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Accessible, reassuring and hopeful.

THE INVISIBLE BOY

This endearing picture book about a timid boy who longs to belong has an agenda but delivers its message with great sensitivity.

Brian wants to join in but is overlooked, even ostracized, by his classmates. Readers first see him alone on the front endpapers, drawing in chalk on the ground. The school scenarios are uncomfortably familiar: High-maintenance children get the teacher’s attention; team captains choose kickball players by popularity and athletic ability; chatter about birthday parties indicates they are not inclusive events. Tender illustrations rendered in glowing hues capture Brian’s isolation deftly; compared to the others and his surroundings, he appears in black and white. What saves Brian is his creativity. As he draws, Brian imagines amazing stories, including a poignant one about a superhero with the power to make friends. When a new boy takes some ribbing, it is Brian who leaves an illustrated note to make him feel better. The boy does not forget this gesture. It only takes one person noticing Brian for the others to see his talents have value; that he has something to contribute. Brian’s colors pop. In the closing endpapers, Brian’s classmates are spread around him on the ground, “wearing” his chalk-drawn wings and capes. Use this to start a discussion: The author includes suggested questions and recommended reading lists for adults and children.

Accessible, reassuring and hopeful. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-582-46450-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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A strong, accessible diary story for readers seeking an adorable animal tale.

PUG'S SNOW DAY

From the Diary of a Pug series , Vol. 2

Bub the anxious pug tackles snow days and new neighbors in his second outing.

Bub, acclaimed by some as “the cutest pug on the planet,” at first shares the enthusiasm owner Bella expresses about snow days even though he doesn’t know what they are. Then Duchess the cat (mildly antagonistic, in typical feline fashion) rains on Bub’s parade by pointing out that snow is water—and Bub’s no fan of rain or baths. After a comedic and disastrous first attempt, Bub learns how to properly dress for snow and enjoy it. The outdoor fun’s cut short by mysterious noises coming from the new neighbor, which frighten Bella into thinking there’s a monster. Bub puts on a Sherlock Holmes get-up to investigate but becomes afraid himself of the new neighbor’s large dog. Finally, Bella meets Jack, who’s been working on a tree fort, and his dog, Luna, who is enthusiastically friendly. The story ends on a positive note, as they all happily work together on the fort. The full-color cartoon illustrations, especially of Bub, are adorably expressive and certain to please the age group. The generous font and format—short, diary-entry paragraphs and speech-bubble conversations—create a quick pace. Bub’s stylized emoji bubbles return and are most hilarious when used to express his nervous flatulence. Bella and Jack both present white.

A strong, accessible diary story for readers seeking an adorable animal tale. (Fantasy. 5-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-53006-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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