Toddler readers will feel just fine after this funky intro to emotions.


Ollie the octopus has an emotional day.

Ollie and Stella the starfish are hanging out and feeling fine. But moods can be changeable, and Ollie’s emotions are concretely labelled as the octopod deals with a series of familiar scenarios that will resonate with toddler listeners. After a run-in with a big wave, “Ollie feels grumpy,” then “afraid” after sighting a (fairly innocuous) shark. Simplicity and clarity are paramount, with concise dialogue pairing with collaged representations of Ollie’s emotions. Expressive eyes provide excellent visual cues as they widen in fear, narrow pointedly with anger, or close into curved, joyful lines. Octopus tentacles are equally evocative, whether jaggedly outlined to denote “surprise,” spread lackadaisically when Ollie is comforted, or dangling limply in fear. Color does heavy lifting too, with a “mad” Ollie turning blood-red or tearful Ollie becoming blue, although Ollie’s distinctively colored rainbow stocking cap keeps the octopus recognizable throughout. One particularly helpful spread shows a tie-dyed Ollie grappling with overlapping and contradictory emotions, reminding Ollie (and small readers!) that it’s possible to feel “a lot of feelings” all at once. After Ollie experiences all these big emotions, it’s Stella to the rescue, offering the overwrought Ollie a hug to “feel better now.” Their comforting embrace under a cheery rainbow is a perfect summary and model of empathy for toddlers.

Toddler readers will feel just fine after this funky intro to emotions. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-63217-301-0

Page Count: 22

Publisher: Little Bigfoot/Sasquatch

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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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. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Wonderful, indeed

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A love song to baby with delightful illustrations to boot.

Sweet but not saccharine and singsong but not forced, Martin’s text is one that will invite rereadings as it affirms parental wishes for children while admirably keeping child readers at its heart. The lines that read “This is the first time / There’s ever been you, / So I wonder what wonderful things / You will do” capture the essence of the picture book and are accompanied by a diverse group of babies and toddlers clad in downright adorable outfits. Other spreads include older kids, too, and pictures expand on the open text to visually interpret the myriad possibilities and hopes for the depicted children. For example, a spread reading “Will you learn how to fly / To find the best view?” shows a bespectacled, school-aged girl on a swing soaring through an empty white background. This is just one spread in which Martin’s fearless embrace of the white of the page serves her well. Throughout the book, she maintains a keen balance of layout choices, and surprising details—zebras on the wallpaper behind a father cradling his child, a rock-’n’-roll band of mice paralleling the children’s own band called “The Missing Teeth”—add visual interest and gentle humor. An ideal title for the baby-shower gift bag and for any nursery bookshelf or lap-sit storytime.

Wonderful, indeed . (Picture book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37671-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015

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