It’s got high visual appeal, but don’t count on the text to deliver.

THE MERMAID COUNTING BOOK

A young mermaid encounters different sea creatures in this rhyming, counting board book.

The book opens with a mother-and-daughter mermaid pair, both White-presenting, setting off on an adventure. After spotting two octopuses, curious Umi continues her discoveries solo, inviting readers to count (among other things) pearls, seahorses, and, at the end of the busy day, the stars visible in the sky. As the book progresses, the number of objects and animals increases from one to 10. The rhyming stanzas are basic, keeping a nice cadence, but there is also little surprising or creative within this familiar format. Diederen’s illustrations are the highlight, done in a pleasing and unusual palette of coral and salmon, set off with teal and even darker blues. These are a welcome change for readers well used to bright and bold neons in similar board books, though the low contrast suits this book to older toddlers. Umi looks young and charming in what looks like a full-body mermaid suit (as opposed to Mommy’s traditional shell bra and skin midriff), and the ocean’s creatures—even the often frightening angler fish—are equally darling and friendly. There’s one large plot hole, however: Where does Umi’s mother go, and why is Umi alone for most of the day? Readers might notice the flick of Mommy’s fin as she swims out of the frame, but there is never an explanation. Perhaps this is something lost in the uncredited translation from the original Dutch. Thank goodness little readers find a mother-daughter reunion of hugs and kisses at the end.

It’s got high visual appeal, but don’t count on the text to deliver. (Board book. 2-3)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-60537-583-0

Page Count: 20

Publisher: Clavis

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Pass on this weak offering.

WHERE IS FLUFFY?

From the My First Stories series

A predictable board-book mystery.

The mystery involves a common childhood crisis—a lost toy. Ho’s trademark round-headed animals stand in for humans with a range of emotions, from the persistently worried Little Bunny to grumpy Pig. Each barnyard animal offers the distraught bunny a comforting alternative to his blanket, “Fluffy.” Finally, when Mouse admits to borrowing Fluffy for a snuggle, Little Bunny forgives him surprisingly quickly because, “I love my Fluffy for snuggling too.” The rhyming text presents problems—either by not actually rhyming (lost/most; fur/near) or falling inconsistently, making end rhymes unpredictable and less than useful in a book for pre-readers. Instead of letting the pictures tell the story, superfluous speaker attributions make this a tedious read-aloud and impede the rhyme: “ ‘I'll search the pond for your Fluffy,’ says Duck. / ‘I've looked underwater already. No luck!’ Fish tells Little Bunny.” The various flaps, foil inserts, and very small tactile elements are not intriguing enough to rescue the story. The tiny patch of wolf fur peeking through the page with the lambs is easily missed (and is disconcertingly far away from the picture of the wolf). Perhaps out of concern for the safety of the lamb, the wolf does not appear on the next page. No similar caution is shown when the owl shares a page with its prey. Do owls not eat chicks wearing spectacles?

Pass on this weak offering. (Board book. 2-3)

Pub Date: April 14, 2015

ISBN: 978-2-7338-3235-6

Page Count: 20

Publisher: Auzou Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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SNACK TIME

From the Noah's Park series , Vol. 3

Six little animal babies spend the day at Noah’s Park.

A baby dog, bear, cat, panda, pig, and snail in colorful onesies and overalls are planning a day in Noah’s Park. As they all sit or stand in a group looking out at readers, the unrelated text above them says “Explore, swing, dance, and jump….” A gatefold flap—which is always a crowd-pleaser with toddlers—reveals they’ve decided to sail away. They put on their life jackets, pack a snack, and off they go. The sweet-looking, cartoony animals board a pink-and-blue–checkered boat, from which they see ducks and ducklings bobbing to and fro. They take a break, feed the ducks, have their own snack, and sail back home. There really is not much action in the book, as the animals just sit or stand around, in spite of the action indicated at the beginning. Even at the end when the text says, “Let’s clean up and sing a god-bye tune,” they are just standing in the boat looking out at the ducks. Hopefully, real toddlers will have more engaging days than the one depicted in this board book.

Sweet but dull. (Board book. 2-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-4263-3

Page Count: 14

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

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