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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Who ya gonna call? A different snowplow book.

SCOOPER AND DUMPER

Friends don’t let friends expire in snowdrifts.

Convoluted storytelling and confusing art turn a cute premise into a mishmash of a book. Scooper’s a front loader that works in the town salt yard, replenishing the snowplows that arrive. Dumper’s her best friend, more than happy to plow and salt the roads himself. When the big city calls in Dumper to help with a snow squall, he brushes off Scooper’s concerns. Yet slippery roads and a seven-vehicle pileup launch poor Dumper onto his side in a snowbank. Can Scooper overcome fears that she’s too slow and save the day? Following a plot as succinct as this should be a breeze, but the rhyming text obfuscates more than it clarifies. Lines such as, “Dumper’s here— / let’s rock ’n’ roll! / Big city’s callin’ for / some small-town soul” can prove impenetrable. The art of the book matches this confusion, with light-blue Dumper often hard to pick out among other, similarly colored vehicles, particularly in the snowstorm. Speech bubbles, as when the city calls for Scooper’s and Dumper’s help, lead to a great deal of visual confusion. Scooper is also featured sporting long eyelashes and a bow, lest anyone mistake the dithering, frightened truck as anything but female. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 16.8% of actual size.)

Who ya gonna call? A different snowplow book. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-9268-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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