A delightfully silly celebration of familial love.

A child in search of the best hugger takes a bedtime tour of the world’s most unusual embraces.

In the opening pages of this rhyming picture book, an unnamed narrator asks a curly-haired, tan-skinned child who they think gives the best hugs. At the narrator’s behest, the protagonist spends their bedtime routine receiving affection from a wacky cast of creatures, ranging from meerkats to porcupines to narwhals. These animals have a variety of body types, but even those with a lack of limbs still express their love; the seahorse, for example, gives the child a “smooch” right before bathtime, and a grinning cobra offers the child a “clinch,” wrapping itself around their leg. Although many of the animals prove to be more prickly than cozy—the narrator points out, for example, the sharpness of bird beaks and porcupine quills—even the snuggliest koalas and bears cannot compare to the best hug of all: a parent’s embrace right before bedtime. The use of second-person address combined with the protagonist’s beautifully illustrated facial expressions and the buoyant, clever lines of verse render this book a hilarious and whimsical ride sure to delight both children and the adults who read to them. The pictures and text work together to create a clear narrative arc for the protagonist, and though the ending is a bit predictable, it’s nevertheless a wonderful payoff. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A delightfully silly celebration of familial love. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-5476-1236-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022


A stocking stuffer par excellence, just right for dishing up with milk and cookies.

Pigeon finds something better to drive than some old bus.

This time it’s Santa delivering the fateful titular words, and with a “Ho. Ho. Whoa!” the badgering begins: “C’mon! Where’s your holiday spirit? It would be a Christmas MIRACLE! Don’t you want to be part of a Christmas miracle…?” Pigeon is determined: “I can do Santa stuff!” Like wrapping gifts (though the accompanying illustration shows a rather untidy present), delivering them (the image of Pigeon attempting to get an oversize sack down a chimney will have little ones giggling), and eating plenty of cookies. Alas, as Willems’ legion of young fans will gleefully predict, not even Pigeon’s by-now well-honed persuasive powers (“I CAN BE JOLLY!”) will budge the sleigh’s large and stinky reindeer guardian. “BAH. Also humbug.” In the typically minimalist art, the frustrated feathered one sports a floppily expressive green and red elf hat for this seasonal addition to the series—but then discards it at the end for, uh oh, a pair of bunny ears. What could Pigeon have in mind now? “Egg delivery, anyone?”

A stocking stuffer par excellence, just right for dishing up with milk and cookies. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781454952770

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Review Posted Online: Sept. 12, 2023


A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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