CAT AND MOUSE

An insipid story about making friends, hauntingly illustrated with soft-edged, simplified geometric forms and scumbled colors. A cat and a mouse are each being taught about the world by their mothers, but they aren't paying attention. They find each other in a green meadow, remark on their differences, try to scare each other, and end up playing all day. That night, the mouse's siblings ask, ``How could you have fun with a cat?'' while the cat's siblings want to know ``How could you be friends with a mouse?'' The next day all the cats and mice meet in the meadow and play until their mothers call them home. Confusingly, the pictures show the cats and mice about the same size most of the time. This underlines the didacticism of the story while belying—without much imagination—the natural predator/prey relationship of the animals involved. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-374-31225-7

Page Count: 28

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1996

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Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug.

THE HUG

What to do when you’re a prickly animal hankering for a hug? Why, find another misfit animal also searching for an embrace!

Sweet but “tricky to hug” little Hedgehog is down in the dumps. Wandering the forest, Hedgehog begs different animals for hugs, but each rejects them. Readers will giggle at their panicked excuses—an evasive squirrel must suddenly count its three measly acorns; a magpie begins a drawn-out song—but will also be indignant on poor hedgehog’s behalf. Hedgehog has the appealingly pink-cheeked softness typical of Dunbar’s art, and the gentle watercolors are nonthreatening, though she also captures the animals’ genuine concern about being poked. A wise owl counsels the dejected hedgehog that while the prickles may frighten some, “there’s someone for everyone.” That’s when Hedgehog spots a similarly lonely tortoise, rejected due to its “very hard” shell but perfectly matched for a spiky new friend. They race toward each other until the glorious meeting, marked with swoony peach swirls and overjoyed grins. At this point, readers flip the book to hear the same gloomy tale from the tortoise’s perspective until it again culminates in that joyous hug, a book turn that’s made a pleasure with thick creamy paper and solid binding.

Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-571-34875-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

INFINITE COUNTRY

A 15-year-old girl in Colombia, doing time in a remote detention center, orchestrates a jail break and tries to get home.

"People say drugs and alcohol are the greatest and most persuasive narcotics—the elements most likely to ruin a life. They're wrong. It's love." As the U.S. recovers from the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, from the misery of separations on the border, from both the idea and the reality of a wall around the United States, Engel's vital story of a divided Colombian family is a book we need to read. Weaving Andean myth and natural symbolism into her narrative—condors signify mating for life, jaguars revenge; the embattled Colombians are "a singed species of birds without feathers who can still fly"; children born in one country and raised in another are "repotted flowers, creatures forced to live in the wrong habitat"—she follows Talia, the youngest child, on a complex journey. Having committed a violent crime not long before she was scheduled to leave her father in Bogotá to join her mother and siblings in New Jersey, she winds up in a horrible Catholic juvie from which she must escape in order to make her plane. Hence the book's wonderful first sentence: "It was her idea to tie up the nun." Talia's cross-country journey is interwoven with the story of her parents' early romance, their migration to the United States, her father's deportation, her grandmother's death, the struggle to reunite. In the latter third of the book, surprising narrative shifts are made to include the voices of Talia's siblings, raised in the U.S. This provides interesting new perspectives, but it is a little awkward to break the fourth wall so late in the book. Attention, TV and movie people: This story is made for the screen.

The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982159-46-7

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Avid Reader Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A particularly soppy, sloppy addition to an already-overstuffed genre.

I LOVE YOU MORE AND MORE

A bear cub gets a load of lyrical loving from a lumbering parent in this nature walk.

Expressed in stumbling rhyme—“I love you more than trees / love to change with every season. / I love you more than anything. / I cannot name just one reason”—Benson’s perfervid sentiments accompany scenes of bear and cub strolling through stands of birch, splashing into a river to watch (just watch) fish, and, in a final moonlit scene, cuddling beneath starry skies. Foxes, otters, and other animal parents and offspring, likewise adoring, make foreground cameos along the way in Lambert’s neatly composed paper-collage–style illustrations. Since the bears are obvious stand-ins for humans (the cub even points at things and in most views is posed on two legs), the gender ambiguity in both writing and art allow human readers some latitude in drawing personal connections, but that’s not enough to distinguish this uninspired effort among the teeming swarm of “I Love You This Much!” titles.

A particularly soppy, sloppy addition to an already-overstuffed genre. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-68010-022-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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