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From the Shapes & Spaces series

Vivid and fun examples cannot make up for fundamental flaws.

The first two entries in the Shapes & Spaces series feature eye-catching and varied photos with lots of kid appeal. Unfortunately, the art, rhyming verse and development of the concepts fail to add up to solid learning tools.

“A square has every / side the same, // and lots of them / can make a game.” From flat squares to cubes, the photos show a wide variety of examples from the everyday world: an empty box serving as a toy house, blocks, the pattern of a soccer net. But even the youngest readers are sure to notice the glaring examples—window panes and a chocolate-covered cookie—that show rectangles instead of squares. The authors then inexplicably move from shapes to an exploration of stripes (a pattern!) about two-thirds into the book. Ladybugs Have Lots of Spots (978-1-55451-557-8), stronger than its companion, focuses only on circles, spheres and cylinders. “Round black tires, / lots of tread, / go on green / and stop on red.” The examples here are just as varied and kid-friendly: buttons, a hula hoop, the inside of a tube slide, polka dots, a cat’s collar, the holes in a watering can. Both books end rather abruptly and lack any note about how to use/extend the concepts with children.

Vivid and fun examples cannot make up for fundamental flaws. (Concept book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55451-580-6

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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It’s a bit hard to dance, or count, to this beat.

Dinos that love to move and groove get children counting from one to 10—and perhaps moving to the beat.

Beginning with a solo bop by a female dino (she has eyelashes, doncha know), the dinosaur dance party begins. Each turn of the page adds another dino and a change in the dance genre: waltz, country line dancing, disco, limbo, square dancing, hip-hop, and swing. As the party would be incomplete without the moonwalk, the T. Rex does the honors…and once they are beyond their initial panic at his appearance, the onlookers cheer wildly. The repeated refrain on each spread allows for audience participation, though it doesn’t easily trip off the tongue: “They hear a swish. / What’s this? / One more? / One more dino on the floor.” Some of the prehistoric beasts are easily identifiable—pterodactyl, ankylosaurus, triceratops—but others will be known only to the dino-obsessed; none are identified, other than T-Rex. Packed spreads filled with psychedelically colored dinos sporting blocks of color, stripes, or polka dots (and infectious looks of joy) make identification even more difficult, to say nothing of counting them. Indeed, this fails as a counting primer: there are extra animals (and sometimes a grumpy T-Rex) in the backgrounds, and the next dino to join the party pokes its head into the frame on the page before. Besides all that, most kids won’t get the dance references.

It’s a bit hard to dance, or count, to this beat. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8075-1598-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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A sweet and subtle book on sharing.

Rudy’s pink sweater is missing. Readers are invited to follow him as he searches for the sweater.

Rudy is a blue creature with a piggy snout, bunny ears, a thin, tufted tail, and a distraught look on his face. His beloved pink sweater is gone. “It was a bit too small and showed his belly button. But it was his favorite.” Where could it be? In a search that doubles as a countdown from 10 to one, Rudy makes his way through the different rooms of the house—top to bottom, inside and outside. As readers open the wardrobe door, “TEN tumbling cats” provide the first hint as to the sweater’s whereabouts. Following the pink yarn that runs across the pages, readers encounter some surprising creatures in each location—including a crocodile sitting in an outhouse busily knitting—as well as flaps to open and die cuts to peek through. Just as he’s about to give up hope—someone must’ve taken it, but “who would love wearing it as much as he did?”—the answer is revealed: “Trudy! His number ONE sister. The sweater fit her perfectly.” And, as is the nature of stories with a happy ending, Rudy gets a new sweater that fits him, from the knitting crocodile, of course. Plot, interactivity, vocabulary, and counting all contribute in making this an engaging book for the upper edge of the board-book range.

A sweet and subtle book on sharing. (Board book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3679-7

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Abrams Appleseed

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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