This morality tale tries too hard to be a poem.

GOAT'S COAT

Alfonzo the goat loves his new coat, but he loves helping others more.

“Let me tell you the tale of Alfonzo the goat, / who was terribly proud of his lovely new coat.” The text mostly continues in anapestic tetrameter, with a few awkward adjustments for those reading it aloud. Almost immediately after strutting about in his beautiful new coat, Alfonzo hears distress signals from a family of newly homeless frogs. Without hesitation, he enlists a bird to pick some stitches out of one of the sleeves, and the frogs have a new home: a boat. (Well, it had to rhyme with coat, right?) With “a warm glow in the depths of his heart,” Alfonzo continues to help animals in trouble by mutilating his new coat. By the time it is all gone and he is close to hypothermia, “Someone was shining around a bright light.” No one is literally shining, as the line suggests; someone is using an instrument that casts a bright light upon the shivering goat. As readers may have expected, Alfonzo the good Samaritan reaps an eventual reward. The art is appropriate: brightly colored, stylized, anthropomorphic animals—humorously goggle-eyed—appear in various indoor and outdoor landscapes. The layout aids in a read-aloud: Sometimes end rhymes and ending near rhymes are situated so that a reader can pause and let listeners guess the pending word. But that doesn’t make it good verse.

This morality tale tries too hard to be a poem. (Picture book. 3-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68119-901-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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Overdone, even for a tall tale.

WALRUS IN THE BATHTUB

A family of four’s new house is perfect save for one feature.

It has everything they need: a big yard, a tree with a sea gulls’ nest in it, and an enormous bathtub. But there’s one problem: In that huge bathtub, there’s a walrus. And he doesn’t want to leave. He makes bathtub tidal waves, he floods the house, and he uses all the toothpaste. The family members do their best to convince the walrus to leave, and little readers will get a few good chuckles out of the increasingly absurd tactics. The text is conveyed almost entirely in list form, with occasional snippets of dialogue and arrows pointing to various pictorial elements when necessary. The “WORST things about having a walrus in the bathtub: 1) Dial-a-Clam deliveries 2) Pool parties 3) Walrus songs” leads naturally to “Things that are louder than walrus songs: 1) Nothing”; underscoring this is the walrus’s not-so-tuneful “AAAAHHHROOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHH!!!” The illustrations are suitably kinetic, milking the absurdity of a walrus in a bathtub for all it’s worth, and they add a narrative subtext, depicting one child’s evident delight in the presence of the family’s unintended roommate. Unfortunately, compositions are so busy, chock-full of silliness plus additional characters such as the family’s dog and the walrus’s visiting friends, that it may be hard for little readers to focus on that relationship. The family members all have light skin and straight hair that’s either black or brown.

Overdone, even for a tall tale. (Picture book. 3-4)

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-8037-4101-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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There's not one decent insect leg to stand on here.

THE BUG NEXT DOOR

It's unfortunate that opposites attract in this dismal offering.

Little Speckled Bug meets his neighbor and immediately feels a connection to the female Bug Next Door, even though they express quite different interests. Little Speckled Bug wants to play boisterous games; the buggy diva's suggestions are stereotypically feminine in contrast. “What if we dressed up as flower fairies instead? We could put on long dresses and wear make up.” In an awkward sequence, the pair share hobbies, including collecting the appendages of their fellow insects (!), and a kiss. Little Speckled Bug's cheeks flush as he pines for his new love. The abrupt, didactic conclusion is both pretentious and perplexing: “But you see, in the blanket, just as in the rest of the world, there are lots of differences between girls and boys”—though other references have been made to the "blanket," its relationship to the book’s world is never explained. The mostly felted mixed-media spreads incorporate a hodgepodge of commonly found items, including sequins and postage stamps. Facial expressions are rigid, and the emotions portrayed inauthentic.

There's not one decent insect leg to stand on here. (Board book. 3-4)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7148-6356-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Phaidon

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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