Water-pollution discussion requires an extra step beyond the reading, but this a good place to start.

BENJAMIN'S BLUE FEET

A bird learns self-acceptance in this tale with a concealed environmental message.

Benjamin, a blue-footed booby, loves to go treasure hunting on his beach. He tugs a long, red “string-stretch-it” (an elastic band) out of the sand, and a round “hmmm…a…hole-thing-um” (a silicon wristband) is a delightful find. But when he finds a shiny “twink-um-doodle” (a mirror), he declares that to be the best treasure of all. He can see himself reflected for the first time! Unfortunately, he doesn’t like what he sees. His beak is too long, his wings are too wide, and his feet are too blue. Benjamin decides to use his treasures to change how he looks. He squeezes into the “hole-thing-um,” ties the “string-stretch-its” around his feet, and fastens other treasures all around. But now, he can hardly move. Luckily, he breaks free and becomes thankful for his original features. Macartney never explicitly mentions the word “trash,” but it is clear to eagle-eyed observers what Benjamin’s “treasures” really are. Benjamin’s quirky names for all of the items he finds add levity, but many other creatures on the island have heavy-lidded stares, making them look sleepy or ill (except when they are laughing at Benjamin).  (Editor’s note: An author’s note about ocean trash has been appended to the finished book.)

Water-pollution discussion requires an extra step beyond the reading, but this a good place to start. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77278-111-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Pajama Press

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift.

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BECAUSE I HAD A TEACHER

A paean to teachers and their surrogates everywhere.

This gentle ode to a teacher’s skill at inspiring, encouraging, and being a role model is spoken, presumably, from a child’s viewpoint. However, the voice could equally be that of an adult, because who can’t look back upon teachers or other early mentors who gave of themselves and offered their pupils so much? Indeed, some of the self-aware, self-assured expressions herein seem perhaps more realistic as uttered from one who’s already grown. Alternatively, readers won’t fail to note that this small book, illustrated with gentle soy-ink drawings and featuring an adult-child bear duo engaged in various sedentary and lively pursuits, could just as easily be about human parent- (or grandparent-) child pairs: some of the softly colored illustrations depict scenarios that are more likely to occur within a home and/or other family-oriented setting. Makes sense: aren’t parents and other close family members children’s first teachers? This duality suggests that the book might be best shared one-on-one between a nostalgic adult and a child who’s developed some self-confidence, having learned a thing or two from a parent, grandparent, older relative, or classroom instructor.

A sweet, soft conversation starter and a charming gift. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-943200-08-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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A wandering effort, happy but pointless.

DRAGONS LOVE TACOS

From the Dragons Love Tacos series

The perfect book for kids who love dragons and mild tacos.

Rubin’s story starts with an incantatory edge: “Hey, kid! Did you know that dragons love tacos? They love beef tacos and chicken tacos. They love really big gigantic tacos and tiny little baby tacos as well.” The playing field is set: dragons, tacos. As a pairing, they are fairly silly, and when the kicker comes in—that dragons hate spicy salsa, which ignites their inner fireworks—the silliness is sillier still. Second nature, after all, is for dragons to blow flames out their noses. So when the kid throws a taco party for the dragons, it seems a weak device that the clearly labeled “totally mild” salsa comes with spicy jalapenos in the fine print, prompting the dragons to burn down the house, resulting in a barn-raising at which more tacos are served. Harmless, but if there is a parable hidden in the dragon-taco tale, it is hidden in the unlit deep, and as a measure of lunacy, bridled or unbridled, it doesn’t make the leap into the outer reaches of imagination. Salmieri’s artwork is fitting, with a crabbed, ethereal line work reminiscent of Peter Sís, but the story does not offer it enough range.

A wandering effort, happy but pointless. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3680-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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