Toddlers may identify with Fletcher’s devotion to Elephant, but far more engaging stuffed-friend tales abound. Try them first



What does Fletcher’s elephant smell like?

After tea on Saturday, Fletcher notices that Elephant smells “different.” Usually Elephant smells like all the places he’s been recently…but not today. Fletcher goes off to seek some help in determining what Elephant smells of now. Mom says dirty socks. (Fletcher disagrees.) Dad says popcorn. (Fletcher disagrees again.) Fletcher also contradicts his sister, Iris, who, after making a crown of clovers for Elephant, thinks Elephant smells like clovers, and Fletcher disagrees with his best friend, Henry, who thinks Elephant just smells like Fletcher (a combination of honey, beetle wings, and rubber boots). Fletcher gives Elephant one more good sniff, takes everyone’s suggestions into account, and declares, “Elephant smells like hugs!” Tina Ballon DeBord’s wordy text is borderline precious; Fletcher’s olfactory quest with its twee denouement is not interesting enough to sustain the book. Kim Jackson DeBord’s washed-out watercolors over plain, black line drawings do not hold the eye and appear unfinished. The characters are all white as the paper they’re drawn on; Fletcher’s family members all have straight, black hair (Fletcher has a cowlick that makes him look like a chocolate kiss), and Henry’s hair is black and crinkly.

Toddlers may identify with Fletcher’s devotion to Elephant, but far more engaging stuffed-friend tales abound. Try them first . (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: April 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-58536-992-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sleeping Bear Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves


A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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This book wants to be feminist.

Princess Penelope Pineapple, illustrated as a white girl with dark hair and eyes, is the Amelia Bloomer of the Pineapple Kingdom. She has dresses, but she prefers to wear pants as she engages in myriad activities ranging from yoga to gardening, from piloting a plane to hosting a science fair. When it’s time for the Pineapple Ball, she imagines wearing a sparkly pants outfit, but she worries about Grand Lady Busyboots’ disapproval: “ ‘Pants have no place on a lady!’ she’d say. / ‘That’s how it has been, and that’s how it shall stay.’ ” In a moment of seeming dissonance between the text and art, Penny seems to resolve to wear pants, but then she shows up to the ball in a gown. This apparent contradiction is resolved when the family cat, Miss Fussywiggles, falls from the castle into the moat and Princess Penelope saves her—after stripping off her gown to reveal pink, flowered swimming trunks and a matching top. Impressed, Grand Lady Busyboots resolves that princesses can henceforth wear whatever they wish. While seeing a princess as savior rather than damsel in distress may still seem novel, it seems a stretch to cast pants-wearing as a broadly contested contemporary American feminist issue. Guthrie and Oppenheim’s unimaginative, singsong rhyme is matched in subtlety by Byrne’s bright illustrations.

Skip it . (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4197-2603-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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