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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A terrific choice for the preschool crowd.

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Little Blue Truck learns that he can be as important as the big yellow school bus.

Little Blue Truck is driving along the country road early one morning when he and driver friend Toad come across a big, yellow, shiny school bus. The school bus is friendly, and so are her animal passengers, but when Little Blue Truck wishes aloud he could do an important job like hers, the school bus says only a bus of her size and features can do this job. Little Blue Truck continues along, a bit envious, and finds Piggy crying by the side of the road, having missed the bus. Little Blue tells Piggy to climb in and takes a creative path to the school—one the bus couldn’t navigate—and with an adventurous spirit, gets Piggy there right on time. The simple, rhyming text opens the story with a sweet, fresh, old-fashioned tone and continues with effortlessly rhythmical lines throughout. Little Blue is a brave, helpful, and hopeful character young readers will root for. Adults will feel a rush of nostalgia and delight in sharing this story with children as the animated vehicles and animals in innocent, colorful countryside scenes evoke wholesome character traits and values of growth, grit, and self-acceptance. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A terrific choice for the preschool crowd. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-41224-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way.


From the Pigeon series

All the typical worries and excuses kids have about school are filtered through Willems’ hysterical, bus-loving Pigeon.

Told mostly in speech balloons, the bird’s monologue will have kids (and their caregivers) in stitches at Pigeon’s excuses. From already knowing everything (except whatever question readers choose to provide in response to “Go ahead—ask me a question. / Any question!”) to fearing learning too much (“My head might pop off”), Pigeon’s imagination has run wild. Readers familiar with Pigeon will recognize the muted, matte backgrounds that show off the bird’s shenanigans so well. As in previous outings, Willems varies the size of the pigeon on the page to help communicate emotion, the bird teeny small on the double-page spread that illustrates the confession that “I’m… / scared.” And Pigeon’s eight-box rant about all the perils of school (“The unknown stresses me out, dude”) is marvelously followed by the realization (complete with lightbulb thought bubble) that school is the place for students to practice, with experts, all those skills they don’t yet have. But it is the ending that is so Willems, so Pigeon, and so perfect. Pigeon’s last question is “Well, HOW am I supposed to get there, anyway!?!” Readers will readily guess both the answer and Pigeon’s reaction.

Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04645-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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