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Avast, me mateys! This be good clean fun on the salty seas.

Using one’s imagination is a lot easier when everybody is on board.

“What are you playing?” an amused parent asks a small child. The little one cries out resolutely, “I’M NOT PLAYING!” After all, a storm is on its way, and it’s time to fit out the ship. The adult’s gentle protestations (“Um, I kind of need to vacuum the rug”) are no match for the undeniable fact that the rug is, in fact, the ocean. Soon enough the two are raising the mainsail, swabbing the poop deck, hoisting the burgee, and more (a helpful glossary of sailing terms is included). In spite of the occasional cell phone interruption (the child, facedown on the rug, laments, “We are in the doldrums” when the adult takes a call), all is put right when the adult gets back into the spirit of things, fielding an attack against a giant squid (aka the vacuum cleaner). Rescues, distress signals, hungry sharks—it all adds up to a wonderful time. That rug is never getting vacuumed. Blackall slips with ease between fantasy and reality, and young readers will have oodles of fun watching as socks morph into seagulls and paper towel tubes become telescopes. It’s also nice to see a book where the notion of turning off your cell phone is aimed more directly at the parents than the kids. All characters are light-skinned.

Avast, me mateys! This be good clean fun on the salty seas. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780593429396

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Anne Schwartz/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2024

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From the How To Catch… series

A syrupy tribute to mothers that may please fans of the series.

Another creature is on the loose.

The long-running series continues its successful formula with this Hallmark card of a book, which features bright illustrations and catchy rhymes. This time, the mythical creature the racially diverse children set out to catch is an absent mom who does it all (lists of descriptors include the words banker, caregiver, nurse, doctor, driver, chef, housekeeper, teacher, entertainer, playmate, laundry service, problem solver, handywoman, cleaner, and alarm clock) but doesn’t seem to have a job outside the home and is inexplicably a dinosaur. As the children prepare gifts and a meal for her, the text becomes an ode to the skills the Mamasaurus possesses (“Day or night she’s always there. / She meets every wish and need”) and values she instills (“Sometimes life can mean hard work,” “kindness matters,” and “what counts is doing your best”). This well-intentioned selection veers into cliche generously sprinkled with saccharine but manages to redeem itself with its appreciation for mothers and all that they may do. Endpapers include a “to” and “from” page framed in a heart, as well as a page where young gift givers or recipients can draw a picture of their Mamasaurus.

A syrupy tribute to mothers that may please fans of the series. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 5, 2024

ISBN: 9781728274300

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2024

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Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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