A very real ship inspires a very slight story, coasting on some serious sweetness.

AND THEN CAME HOPE

A humanitarian hospital ship figures in a tale of ailing boats and gentle aid.

When the ships are sick, nobody’s happy. Not Barge, who “got bonked,” or Submarine, who has the shakes. Neither are feverish Ferry, coughing Aircraft Carrier, and sniffly, drippy Dory. Who takes care of these ill boats? Why, hospital ship Hope, of course! In a jiffy she treats, comforts, and cares for anyone under the weather. By the time everyone is “shipshape” again, they can rest assured that in the event of another emergency, they’ll always be able to rely on Hope. Backmatter includes a note on the real SS Hope, America’s first peacetime hospital ship, which spent 14 years traveling the world bringing care and training to other countries. Children fearing hospital visits, doctors, or nurses may find comfort in the book’s measured tone. This is reflected not merely in the spare text with its gentle wordplay, but also in the simplicity and style of the digital art. Shapes are cleanly delineated, colors and planes flat. The composition in which Barge suffers her injury is so stylized as to resemble an exercise in the play between positive and negative space. Both text and visuals are so restrained that while the ship-obsessed will love it, it is unlikely that the book will stand up to much rereading among other audiences.

A very real ship inspires a very slight story, coasting on some serious sweetness. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4518-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

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 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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An interesting premise but the execution is underwhelming.

STELLA KEEPS THE SUN UP

Stella hates going to bed, so she and her best buddy attempt to prevent the sun from setting.

Imaginative Stella, a young Black girl with Afro puffs, misses her friend Kamrynn, a light-skinned, straight-haired girl who has moved to “the other side of the world.” Luckily, Stella still has her best pal Roger, a blue hippo stuffie. Neither Stella nor Roger like sleeping: “Why do we have to miss all the fun and go to bed just because it gets dark?” Deciding that “if it never gets dark, then we can stay awake forever,” the duo work tirelessly to “keep the sun awake.” They play loud music, shine flashlights at the sun, and even make various attempts to launch a cup of coffee up to the celestial orb in hopes that caffeine will keep it alert. Eventually, the pair quit when they realize that if the sun never sets for them, morning can never come for Kamrynn, who wakes up when they go to bed. Despite the book’s sweet touches, the narrative is weakened by some meandering irrelevancies that make the plot feel disconnected. Also, at the beginning of the story, Stella seems enamored of the moon—she wishes she could jump high enough to kiss it—yet she and Roger spend the bulk of the book trying to prevent nightfall; this discrepancy may give some readers pause. The digital, cartoonlike illustrations are bright, colorful, and cheerful but don’t make up for the shaky plotting.

An interesting premise but the execution is underwhelming. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-8785-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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