Many kids will wonder why they too can’t bring an elephant home to play.

AN ELEPHANT IN MY BACKYARD

Did an elephant really follow Maya home from the temple in her Indian village?

When she first meets the baby elephant, the animal sneezes, and the little girl says: “Bless you, Acchu.” The homonym appears several times in the text, adding a little “Who’s on First”–type spin to the general confusion of the grown-ups in the house: “Maya, I thought you were an elephant!” exclaims Appa. “No, that’s Acchu!” she replies. “Bless you,” says he. There is no glossary, but Paati and Thatha (grandma and grandpa) and Amma and Appa (mom and dad) are very easy to decipher. None of the adults ever realize that the elephant is in the yard; they just glimpse little parts of it. Maybe it’s a hose? Maybe it’s the end of Maya’s braid? But they still seem to be in the dark until they notice the big mess of banana skins and coconut shells little Acchu has left on the ground. After all, Amma had told Maya exactly what elephants liked to eat. The light, humorous story is illustrated with attractive, amusing watercolors that portray a mischievous girl at play with her animal friend. There’s nothing overt here about rural Indian life—just a simple way to open readers’ imaginations to another part of the world.

Many kids will wonder why they too can’t bring an elephant home to play. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-81-8190-240-5

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Karadi Tales

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride.

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THE PIGEON WILL RIDE THE ROLLER COASTER!

The Pigeon is on an emotional—and physical—roller coaster.

Since learning about the existence of roller coasters, he’s become giddy with excitement. The Pigeon prepares mentally: He’ll need a ticket and “exemplary patience” to wait in line. He envisions zooming up and down and careening through dizzying turns and loops. Then, he imagines his emotions afterward: exhilaration, post-ride blues, pride at having accomplished such a feat, and enthusiasm at the prospect of riding again. (He’ll also feel dizzy and nauseous.) All this before the Pigeon ever sets claw on an actual coaster. So…will he really try it? Are roller coasters fun? When the moment comes, everything seems to go according to plan: waiting in line, settling into the little car, THEN—off he goes! Though the ride itself isn’t quite what the Pigeon expected, it will delight readers. Wearing his feelings on his wing and speaking directly to the audience in first person, the Pigeon describes realistic thoughts and emotions about waiting and guessing about the unknown—common childhood experiences. No sentiment is misplaced; kids will relate to Pigeon’s eagerness and apprehension. The ending falls somewhat flat, but the whole humorous point is that an underwhelming adventure can still be thrilling enough to warrant repeating. Willems’ trademark droll illustrations will have readers giggling. The roller-coaster attendant is light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4549-4686-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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