A whimsical British import tells the story of how a resourceful princess finds her own best friend. When Princess Aasta decides she wants a “big, cuddly bear friend,” she takes out an ad in the paper. Scores of bears respond with photographs, and Aasta chooses a polar bear, Kvitebjørn, because he “had the friendliest eyes she had ever seen.” Despite her father’s reservations about the wisdom of “having a big, dangerous Ursus maritimus running about in his garden,” he allows Kvitebjørn to stay because he sees how happy they are together. This ever-so-slight story is capped off by a trip to the North Pole to play, after which they return for supper. Appropriately enough, the illustrations make generous use of white space, with its few figures outlined in pen-and-ink and touched with a sparing use of color. The figures are naïvely drawn, rendered in a childlike way to suit this tale, which is the acme of child wish-fulfillment. Aasta herself has a big round head with spiky long hair, pink cheeks and nose, and a broad, gap-toothed smile, while Kvitebjørn is the essence of ursine cuddliness, his white fur touched with yellow highlights to add a friendly warmth. The text rollicks gently across the page, varying in size and placement in a way that resembles cut-out and pasted-down collage words—another childlike touch. This sweetly confident tale, adapted from a Norwegian folktale by newcomer Ørdal, makes for an offering that appeals directly and successfully to its audience. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2002

ISBN: 1-58234-783-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2002


From the Once Upon a World series

A nice but not requisite purchase.

A retelling of the classic fairy tale in board-book format and with a Mexican setting.

Though simplified for a younger audience, the text still relates the well-known tale: mean-spirited stepmother, spoiled stepsisters, overworked Cinderella, fairy godmother, glass slipper, charming prince, and, of course, happily-ever-after. What gives this book its flavor is the artwork. Within its Mexican setting, the characters are olive-skinned and dark-haired. Cultural references abound, as when a messenger comes carrying a banner announcing a “FIESTA” in beautiful papel picado. Cinderella is the picture of beauty, with her hair up in ribbons and flowers and her typically Mexican many-layered white dress. The companion volume, Snow White, set in Japan and illustrated by Misa Saburi, follows the same format. The simplified text tells the story of the beautiful princess sent to the forest by her wicked stepmother to be “done away with,” the dwarves that take her in, and, eventually, the happily-ever-after ending. Here too, what gives the book its flavor is the artwork. The characters wear traditional clothing, and the dwarves’ house has the requisite shoji screens, tatami mats and cherry blossoms in the garden. The puzzling question is, why the board-book presentation? Though the text is simplified, it’s still beyond the board-book audience, and the illustrations deserve full-size books.

A nice but not requisite purchase. (Board book/fairy tale. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7915-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017


A young boy wonders aloud to a rabbit friend what he will be when he grows up and imagines some outrageous choices. “Puddle stomper,” “bubble gum popper,” “mixing-bowl licker,” “baby-sis soother” are just some of the 24 inspiringly creative vocations Spinelli’s young dreamer envisions in this pithy rhymed account. Aided by Liao’s cleverly integrated full-bleed mixed-media illustrations, which radiate every hue of the rainbow, and dynamic typesetting with words that swoop and dive, the author’s perspective on this adult-inspired question yields some refreshingly child-oriented answers. Given such an irresistible array of options—“So many jobs! / They’re all such fun”—the boy in the end decides, in an exuberant double gatefold, “I’m going to choose… / EVERY ONE!”—a conclusion befitting a generation expected to have more than six careers each. Without parents or peers around to corral this carefree child’s dreams, the possibilities of being whatever one wants appear both limitless and attainable. An inspired take on a timeless question. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-316-16226-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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