The concepts have gone slightly askew, but the book can spark discussion, which just might be the only educational bent...

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FIND SPOT!

In a style reminiscent of Laura Vaccaro Seeger, Previn uses die cuts and simple phrasing to explore many different kinds of spots.

It has all the makings of a grand concept book—squat, square trim, bright colors—but it’s a bit unclear on the actual concept it is trying to teach or, in fact, exactly what the “spot” is. The cover may lead children to believe that Spot is a Dalmatian puppy, but within, children will find that “spot” is an omnibus term whose exact meaning is flexible. Many of the “spot” pairs are true opposites: “Spot jumps. / Spot crawls. // Spot flies. / Spot falls” (the “spots” are, respectively, a frog’s spot, ant’s segment, firefly’s light and ladybug’s dot). Some “spots,” like the opening spread that depicts a rooster and an alarm clock (“Spot crows. / Spot wakes”), are similar and not opposite at all. Others, such as a bowling ball and the tires of a car (“Spot rolls. / Spot zooms”), are even more of a stretch. Literal-minded children will go nuts trying to figure out exactly what the “spot” is in each picture. The name of the rooster or its eye? The hole in a tree (“Spot grows”)? If so, is the hole growing or the tree growing? Regardless, the thick, crackled acrylics and heavy brush strokes give incredible texture to each pair. Extreme close-ups and generous swaths of bold colors heighten the exuberance. The playful game of searching for spots just may be enough to carry youngsters through. 

The concepts have gone slightly askew, but the book can spark discussion, which just might be the only educational bent needed. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: June 17, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-21332-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it.

YOUR BABY'S FIRST WORD WILL BE DADA

A succession of animal dads do their best to teach their young to say “Dada” in this picture-book vehicle for Fallon.

A grumpy bull says, “DADA!”; his calf moos back. A sad-looking ram insists, “DADA!”; his lamb baas back. A duck, a bee, a dog, a rabbit, a cat, a mouse, a donkey, a pig, a frog, a rooster, and a horse all fail similarly, spread by spread. A final two-spread sequence finds all of the animals arrayed across the pages, dads on the verso and children on the recto. All the text prior to this point has been either iterations of “Dada” or animal sounds in dialogue bubbles; here, narrative text states, “Now everybody get in line, let’s say it together one more time….” Upon the turn of the page, the animal dads gaze round-eyed as their young across the gutter all cry, “DADA!” (except the duckling, who says, “quack”). Ordóñez's illustrations have a bland, digital look, compositions hardly varying with the characters, although the pastel-colored backgrounds change. The punch line fails from a design standpoint, as the sudden, single-bubble chorus of “DADA” appears to be emanating from background features rather than the baby animals’ mouths (only some of which, on close inspection, appear to be open). It also fails to be funny.

Plotless and pointless, the book clearly exists only because its celebrity author wrote it. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-00934-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug.

THE HUG

What to do when you’re a prickly animal hankering for a hug? Why, find another misfit animal also searching for an embrace!

Sweet but “tricky to hug” little Hedgehog is down in the dumps. Wandering the forest, Hedgehog begs different animals for hugs, but each rejects them. Readers will giggle at their panicked excuses—an evasive squirrel must suddenly count its three measly acorns; a magpie begins a drawn-out song—but will also be indignant on poor hedgehog’s behalf. Hedgehog has the appealingly pink-cheeked softness typical of Dunbar’s art, and the gentle watercolors are nonthreatening, though she also captures the animals’ genuine concern about being poked. A wise owl counsels the dejected hedgehog that while the prickles may frighten some, “there’s someone for everyone.” That’s when Hedgehog spots a similarly lonely tortoise, rejected due to its “very hard” shell but perfectly matched for a spiky new friend. They race toward each other until the glorious meeting, marked with swoony peach swirls and overjoyed grins. At this point, readers flip the book to hear the same gloomy tale from the tortoise’s perspective until it again culminates in that joyous hug, a book turn that’s made a pleasure with thick creamy paper and solid binding.

Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-571-34875-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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