Bernice the bear isn’t very successful as a budding ballerina, but she keeps taking lessons and keeps practicing, even though her leaps land in lumps and her pliés in plops. Corey, author of the First Graders from Mars series, infuses her ursine heroine with a strong attitude of confidence, enough for Bernice to keep dancing even when told she “will never be a ballerina.” Bernice finds a perfect partner in Bertram the bear, who dances exquisitely but boringly. As a team, Bernice (with her humorous antics) and Bertram (with his polished and perfect steps) perform at their spring recital, offsetting each other’s flaws and charming the audience. Paparone (The Little School Bus, p. 810, etc.) provides a cast of amusing animal characters in her jewel-toned illustrations, with a pleasingly plump Bernice who fills out her leotard as a healthy bear should. The animals convey the idea of ballet movements and positions rather than precise ballet technique, and Bertram’s supposedly perfect dancing is not reflected in the illustrations. (He doesn’t point his toes when dancing, for example.) But ballet technique is not the point here, as it is Bernice’s unshakable confidence that is the story’s gentle message, a refreshing change from baby ballerinas who steal the spotlight due to extraordinary talent. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-81416-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2002


From the Once Upon a World series

A nice but not requisite purchase.

A retelling of the classic fairy tale in board-book format and with a Mexican setting.

Though simplified for a younger audience, the text still relates the well-known tale: mean-spirited stepmother, spoiled stepsisters, overworked Cinderella, fairy godmother, glass slipper, charming prince, and, of course, happily-ever-after. What gives this book its flavor is the artwork. Within its Mexican setting, the characters are olive-skinned and dark-haired. Cultural references abound, as when a messenger comes carrying a banner announcing a “FIESTA” in beautiful papel picado. Cinderella is the picture of beauty, with her hair up in ribbons and flowers and her typically Mexican many-layered white dress. The companion volume, Snow White, set in Japan and illustrated by Misa Saburi, follows the same format. The simplified text tells the story of the beautiful princess sent to the forest by her wicked stepmother to be “done away with,” the dwarves that take her in, and, eventually, the happily-ever-after ending. Here too, what gives the book its flavor is the artwork. The characters wear traditional clothing, and the dwarves’ house has the requisite shoji screens, tatami mats and cherry blossoms in the garden. The puzzling question is, why the board-book presentation? Though the text is simplified, it’s still beyond the board-book audience, and the illustrations deserve full-size books.

A nice but not requisite purchase. (Board book/fairy tale. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7915-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017


A young boy wonders aloud to a rabbit friend what he will be when he grows up and imagines some outrageous choices. “Puddle stomper,” “bubble gum popper,” “mixing-bowl licker,” “baby-sis soother” are just some of the 24 inspiringly creative vocations Spinelli’s young dreamer envisions in this pithy rhymed account. Aided by Liao’s cleverly integrated full-bleed mixed-media illustrations, which radiate every hue of the rainbow, and dynamic typesetting with words that swoop and dive, the author’s perspective on this adult-inspired question yields some refreshingly child-oriented answers. Given such an irresistible array of options—“So many jobs! / They’re all such fun”—the boy in the end decides, in an exuberant double gatefold, “I’m going to choose… / EVERY ONE!”—a conclusion befitting a generation expected to have more than six careers each. Without parents or peers around to corral this carefree child’s dreams, the possibilities of being whatever one wants appear both limitless and attainable. An inspired take on a timeless question. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-316-16226-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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