A mild tale of tails with important lessons about self-acceptance.



Gillaspy’s (Fly Like an Eagle, 2011) first picture book is a story of loss and acceptance as experienced by a dog who lost her long, waggy tail.

Piko’s life is good, and her perks (loving humans, toys, a dachshund friend, etc.) are shown in Underkoffler’s dog’s-eye-view illustrations rather than told. But despite all this doggy goodness, Piko is sad because she “lost” her tail as a puppy, and the other dogs call her ugly. Deciding to seek her tail so she “can be happy and beautiful,” she asks Bee for help. Bee directs her to Owl, and Owl sends Piko to Squirrel, warning that Squirrel is a trickster. Piko chases Squirrel, thinking Squirrel has stolen her tail, but she’s mistaken. Squirrel directs Piko to a mountain-dwelling creature who steals tails from other animals. After an arduous, scary journey, Piko spots the apparent thief and chases it. The bear cub—for that’s what it is—runs for its mother, who roars at Piko. Piko explains her mission, and Mama Bear laughs and tells Piko never to believe squirrels. But she also tells Piko that she’s “the bravest dog I ever met.” The bears turn to leave, and Piko notices (why didn’t she see when she was chasing the cub?) that they don’t have long, waggy tails, but short, beautiful tails that “look just like Piko [sic].” Piko returns home to her humans, feeling proud, brave, happy and beautiful, and she roars like a bear at any dog that makes fun of her. The illustrations provide a strong sense of the settings through which Piko moves, and the text styling—which has a hand-lettered look—adapts to show emphasis and, when Squirrel compares Squirrel’s tail with Piko’s, to show the various tail attributes Squirrel names. It’s too bad Piko is so focused on beauty and that her new way of dealing with teasing involves acting like a bear rather than finding a doggy solution. Nevertheless, it’s possible that this story could serve as an “Ugly Duckling” variation for children, suggesting to them that there are others who share their loss and that the answer lies not in replacing what is lost, but in finding beauty in their current states.

A mild tale of tails with important lessons about self-acceptance.

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1592989430

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Beaver's Pond Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2014

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Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.


Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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A joyful celebration.


Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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