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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Likely to cause some imaginative prancing among unicorn and kitty lovers.

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ITTY-BITTY KITTY-CORN

Is Kitty only a kitten? Or might she be a noble unicorn?

Inspired by the unicorn on her poster, Kitty crafts a perfect horn and admires herself in the mirror. She feels “unicorn-y.” Her friends disagree. “ ‘You’re not a unicorn, putty-pie,’ says Parakeet. / ‘You’re curled up like a cat, fluffy-fry,’ says Gecko.” So Kitty uncurls to prance and gallop, but her detractors point out her tiny tail. With some effort she plumps it up. They tell her she will never be a unicorn because she meows like a cat; this, of course, prompts her to let out a loud “NEIGH!” Parakeet and Gecko are having none of it, each time varying their mild name-calling. As the sun dips low, Kitty’s sure her long shadow looks like a unicorn’s—until a real unicorn clops into view. Gecko and Parakeet are impressed, and Kitty feels insignificant. But this unicorn has a secret…a pair of fluffy, pink kitty ears the same pink as Kitty’s. They can be kitty-corns together, best friends. Unicorn fans will definitely identify with Hale’s protagonist and respond well to Pham’s bright cartoons, laid out as spot illustrations that pop against the mostly all-white backgrounds. The way Kitty’s friends dismissively poke fun with their name-calling may give some readers pause, but the be-true-to-the-inner-you message and the expressive characterizations add appeal. (This book was reviewed digitally with 12-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 51.2% of actual size.)

Likely to cause some imaginative prancing among unicorn and kitty lovers. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5091-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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