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BILL BOWERBIRD AND THE UNBEARABLE BEAK-ACHE

Bill Bowerbird, normally a happy fellow, awakens one morning with a terrible pain in his beak.

Bill is distraught. He has never had a beak-ache before and does not know what to do. Off he goes to seek help from his friends. The owl offers honey, and the zebras allow Bill to take a few of their colorful stripes. Neither helps, but Bill does not give up: he soldiers on, asking friend after friend for advice in rhyming couplets. Though he collects many items to take back to his nest, not one of them relieves his pain, not even the frozen carrot from the walrus who serves as town clerk. By the story’s conclusion, however, Bill is pain-free at last. To his surprise, the pain was only—and very improbably—a new tooth sprouting! Bill celebrates by inviting all of his friends over to thank them with a party before cleaning his nest of all the new stuff. Canadian writer and illustrator Burke’s book is rich with colors—the confetti-striped zebras are an especial treat—but the text suffers. Though the refrain is catchy (“Wickety-tickety BOO-hoo-hoo!”), the rhyming text is often badly forced: “ ‘What to do, what to do?’ Bill loudly wails. / ‘Please help me, friends, to cure this ail!’ ” The plot likewise feels underdeveloped, and its failure to capitalize on what makes real bowerbirds special—their elaborately constructed nests—is a serious missed opportunity.

Skip. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-77147-154-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught...

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A PROBLEM?

A child struggles with the worry and anxiety that come with an unexpected problem.

In a wonderful balance of text and pictures, the team responsible for What Do You Do With an Idea (2014) returns with another book inspiring children to feel good about themselves. A child frets about a problem that won’t go away: “I wished it would just disappear. I tried everything I could to hide from it. I even found ways to disguise myself. But it still found me.” The spare, direct narrative is accompanied by soft gray illustrations in pencil and watercolor. The sepia-toned figure of the child is set apart from the background and surrounded by lots of white space, visually isolating the problem, which is depicted as a purple storm cloud looming overhead. Color is added bit by bit as the storm cloud grows and its color becomes more saturated. With a backpack and umbrella, the child tries to escape the problem while the storm swirls, awash with compass points scattered across the pages. The pages brighten into splashes of yellow as the child decides to tackle the problem head-on and finds that it holds promise for unlooked-for opportunity.

A straightforward, effective approach to helping children cope with one of life’s commonplace yet emotionally fraught situations, this belongs on the shelf alongside Molly Bang’s Sophie books. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-943-20000-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love.

THE LOVE LETTER

A mysterious love letter brightens the lives of three forest animals.

Appealing mixed-media illustrations made of ink, gouache, brush marker, and colored pencil combine with a timely message that one kind act can start a chain reaction of kindness. When Hedgehog, Bunny, and Squirrel stumble in turn upon a formally composed love letter, each finds their life improved: Squirrel is less anxious, Bunny spreads goodwill through helpfulness, and Hedgehog is unusually cheerful. As the friends converge to try to discover who sent the letter, the real author appears in a (rather) convenient turn: a mouse who wrote an ode to the moon. Though disappointed that the letter was never meant for them, the friends reflect that the letter still made the world a happier place, making it a “wonderful mix-up.” Since there’s a lot of plot to follow, the book will best serve more-observant readers who are able to piece the narrative cleanly, but those older readers may also better appreciate the special little touches, such as the letter’s enticing, old-fashioned typewriter-style look, vignettes that capture small moments, or the subdued color palette that lends an elegant air. Drawn with minimalist, scribbly lines, the creatures achieve an invigorating balance between charming and spontaneous, with smudged lines that hint at layers of fur and simple, dotted facial expressions.

A sweet and far-from-cloying ode to love. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-274157-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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