BRONCO AND FRIENDS

A PARTY TO REMEMBER

Bronco the nearsighted dog doesn’t feel worthy of a party invitation.

All the animals in the forest have been invited to a party at which guests will complete a puzzle with a piece they will “find…when [they] realize [they] are made purposefully.” But “because Bronco had terrible vision, he didn’t think he was special enough to go to the party. So he’d thrown out the invitation.” At Squirrel’s urging, Bronco abruptly changes his mind. Putting on his blue eyeglasses, he sets out, on the way meeting other animals who also feel they are unworthy of the invitation for various baseless reasons. He bucks them up so they join him, and they return the favor when he has second thoughts himself. They are all welcomed warmly to the party by Colby, the panda host, who produces Bronco’s missing puzzle piece. Bronco fits it into the center of the puzzle, but rather than expanding on the puzzle metaphor, Colby says, “Each creature is born unique. Our differences make us special.” (This sentiment is reiterated with a closing epigraph from Ephesians 2:10.) Concrete-thinking children may be distracted from the message by wondering just how Colby got Bronco’s puzzle piece. Moreover and troublingly, the story never explicitly dismisses Bronco’s disability as a reason to feel worthless, instead simply celebrating Bronco’s strengths, including his “gift of sniff.” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.8-by-19.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 21% of actual size.)

Well-meaning but muddled. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-23204-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: WaterBrook

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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