An original idea that’s not quite road ready.


From the Read & Ride series

Four vehicle-shaped board books packaged together with three road scenes invite young transportation enthusiasts to play.

A police car, a taxi, a fire engine, and a recycling truck fit together like a simple puzzle in a cutout nestled in the bigger book. When the books are removed, the cutout is just a plain black space in the middle of the right-hand page. Pages that frame the cutout open to create three different wordless road scenes decorated with stylized buildings, animals, and more vehicles. Even though the book-vehicles don’t have moving wheels (just pictures of wheels), toddlers might be more interested in them as toys than books. Each little book has an introductory sentence (“Hurry! The recycling truck is almost here!”) followed by labels (“glass”; “paper”; “bin”) near the relevant objects in the illustrations. Some of the vocabulary is rather abstract for toddlers. For example, in the taxi book, one of the labels is “checkers.” The front of each vehicle makes a convenient handhold for toddlers just learning to turn pages. However, the plastic cover that holds the small book-vehicles in place doesn’t fit easily into the cutout and will be quickly lost, making this package a shelving nightmare. The cartoon people shown driving the taxi, taking out the recycling, calling on a police radio, rescuing a cat, etc., are various shades of brown but no distinct ethnicity.

An original idea that’s not quite road ready. (Novelty board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4521-6546-2

Page Count: 5

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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A Christmas train book that gets derailed by a lacking story arc.


From the The Goodnight Train series

Not quite the Polar Express….

Sobel’s rhyming text fails to deliver a clear premise for the eponymous goodnight train’s Christmas Eve progress through the pages, and Huliska-Beith’s acrylic paintings embellished with fabric and paper collage don’t clarify the storytelling. At the start of the picture book, a bevy of anthropomorphic animals decorates a rather rickety-looking engine, and then human children gather around and pile into train cars that look like beds and cribs. The train follows a track, seemingly in pursuit of Santa’s sleigh, but to what end isn’t clear. They travel “through a town of gingerbread” and through the woods to find the sleigh blocking the tracks and the reindeer snoozing while, mystifyingly, Santa counts some sheep. Perching the sleigh on the train’s cowcatcher, they all proceed to the North Pole, where the “elves all cheer. / Santa’s here until next year!” But then the goodnight train just…leaves, “heading home on Christmas Eve.” Was this a dream? It definitely wasn’t a story with a satisfying beginning, middle, and end. Santa’s face is never seen; the human children and elves are diverse.

A Christmas train book that gets derailed by a lacking story arc. (Picture book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-61840-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Truck lovers of any gender will find this title a treat, but the hyperfeminine companion is sadly restrictive.


Richly textured board pages and a limited color palette distinguish this tribute to trucks.

The gray buckram cover is a delight to hold, while bright red endpapers promise excitement within. Beautifully designed using shades of red, black, white, and brown on matte pages, the whole package has a retro, letterpress feel. The first truck is a firetruck big enough for a brown-skinned child to straddle. Later pages feature construction vehicles, a flatbed trailer, and an ice cream truck. The slight text has a lyrical quality, though the occasional rhymes seem accidental. Relatively abstract concepts are casually introduced, “Love is a kid who lines them all up. Biggest to smallest, color by color.” On the final page the brown-skinned child is kissed goodnight while clutching a truck under a road-patterned blanket. The main character wears plaid bib overalls and has longish curly hair. Another child, also brown-skinned, with close-cropped hair, plays with the construction trucks, shares a treat from the ice cream truck, and offers a goodnight kiss. Unfortunately, a less gender-neutral companion volume, Love Is a Tutu, clearly aims for the ballerina market with an excess of pink. Together the two books assure little girls they can love both tutus and trucks. Unfortunately, they send a mixed message to little boys.

Truck lovers of any gender will find this title a treat, but the hyperfeminine companion is sadly restrictive. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-937359-86-7

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cameron + Company

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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