A fairy tale that’s more morality than magic.


What to do when a boy won’t clean his room?

Joe’s father warns that the Toy Fairy will take toys if they are left on the floor, but the little white boy doesn’t believe it. Skillfully rendered, appealing illustrations depict Joe and his world, and the focus on a boy’s relationship with his father is a welcome touch. When toys disappear, Joe assumes his father is to blame, so he’s surprised to witness a tiny fairy (depicted as a winged, middle-aged white man in a flannel shirt) shrinking his toys, throwing them in a sock, and flying out the door. Selfish Joe then sets out one of his sister’s dolls—he doesn’t want to risk his own—and holds tight when the Toy Fairy appears. Shrunk and thrown into the sock, he’s eventually brought to the room of a new boy from school who has no toys at all. Magically restored to his natural size (and apparently never having caught the attention of the Toy Fairy), Joe returns home, leaving his toys (and his sister’s!) behind. Having learned his lesson, he cleans up ever after, except when he leaves a toy for the Toy Fairy to put to good use. Though the story is obviously well-intentioned—Joe learns to clean up, to appreciate what he’s got, and to share—and not without child appeal, its clear point is to instruct children and impart values rather than tell a good story. The result is heavy-handed and didactic.

A fairy tale that’s more morality than magic. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-76036-024-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Starfish Bay

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Safe to creep on by.


Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.


A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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