THERE'S NOTHING FASTER THAN A CHEETAH

Yes, cheetahs are fast and anthropomorphized animals are funny, but the race should at least be fair.

Many animals use a variety of tactics to try to outrun the cheetah in a race.

The omniscient narrator tries to deflate readers’ expectations—a race between a cheetah and a snail is hardly a fair match, since “there’s NOTHING faster than a cheetah!” But each page turn reveals more animals using different modes of transportation to give it their best shots. From a rhino on roller skates and a hippo in a hang glider to squirrels on snowmobiles and gorillas in go-karts, the cheetah leaves them all behind, though she is getting quite winded. Observant readers will notice snails on almost every spread gathering an interesting mishmash of supplies, making the ultimate reveal even funnier (spoiler: there IS something faster than a cheetah). The final wordless spread shows all the participating animals cheering for the winners atop the podium. Don’t miss the endpapers, which provide average speeds for many species (in kilometers per hour). Collins’ illustrations are sure to elicit giggles: The animals’ facial expressions are a hoot, and the small details will make even adult readers grin. The text is set up as a conversation between the narrator and an unidentified stand-in for the reader, though readers may wonder who is speaking, and in the end, the question of fairness is sure to come up.

Yes, cheetahs are fast and anthropomorphized animals are funny, but the race should at least be fair. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2023

ISBN: 9781684647958

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kane Miller

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023

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CARPENTER'S HELPER

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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