Far-fetched but satisfying.

A HOME FOR LEO

This lighthearted tale of a child reared by sea lions is completely outlandish yet manages to capably address very real feelings about belonging and identity.

Leo, a young, white, blond boy, is pictured flying out of a boat during a storm even before the title page; he’s subsequently taken in by a family of sea lions. This looks like kid heaven—bodysurfing with sea lion pups, romping in a whale’s spout, and sleeping under the stars—but Leo feels and looks “different,” until he meets ”a creature who looked like him.” This creature, a young biracial, brown-skinned girl with hair in two ponytail puffs, really does look like him: They are both human. Once reunited with his human family, Leo is happy again, but as before, something is amiss. He still says “Ark! Ark!” and misses “his other family…and the sea.” Not explicitly about transracial adoption or blended families, this is about a child longing to belong, and the simultaneous feelings of happiness and alienation here ring true. Vogel’s stylized digital illustrations have an appealingly cartoonish look, with googly eyes on both humans and animals. Humorous scenarios (Leo sitting in a restaurant seafood tank; a sea lion in the bathtub with a gull on its head) visually portray the contrasts Leo feels. The happy ending, when Leo’s human family moves to the seaside so people and sea creatures can live together, is perhaps unrealistically optimistic, but this is a story of a child raised by sea lions, after all.

Far-fetched but satisfying. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5039-0260-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: April 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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Sadly, the storytelling runs aground.

LITTLE RED SLEIGH

A little red sleigh has big Christmas dreams.

Although the detailed, full-color art doesn’t anthropomorphize the protagonist (which readers will likely identify as a sled and not a sleigh), a close third-person text affords the object thoughts and feelings while assigning feminine pronouns. “She longed to become Santa’s big red sleigh,” reads an early line establishing the sleigh’s motivation to leave her Christmas-shop home for the North Pole. Other toys discourage her, but she perseveres despite creeping self-doubt. A train and truck help the sleigh along, and when she wishes she were big, fast, and powerful like them, they offer encouragement and counsel patience. When a storm descends after the sleigh strikes out on her own, an unnamed girl playing in the snow brings her to a group of children who all take turns riding the sleigh down a hill. When the girl brings her home, the sleigh is crestfallen she didn’t reach the North Pole. A convoluted happily-ever-after ending shows a note from Santa that thanks the sleigh for giving children joy and invites her to the North Pole next year. “At last she understood what she was meant to do. She would build her life up spreading joy, one child at a time.” Will she leave the girl’s house to be gifted to other children? Will she stay and somehow also reach ever more children? Readers will be left wondering. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 31.8% of actual size.)

Sadly, the storytelling runs aground. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72822-355-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride.

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THE PIGEON WILL RIDE THE ROLLER COASTER!

The Pigeon is on an emotional—and physical—roller coaster.

Since learning about the existence of roller coasters, he’s become giddy with excitement. The Pigeon prepares mentally: He’ll need a ticket and “exemplary patience” to wait in line. He envisions zooming up and down and careening through dizzying turns and loops. Then, he imagines his emotions afterward: exhilaration, post-ride blues, pride at having accomplished such a feat, and enthusiasm at the prospect of riding again. (He’ll also feel dizzy and nauseous.) All this before the Pigeon ever sets claw on an actual coaster. So…will he really try it? Are roller coasters fun? When the moment comes, everything seems to go according to plan: waiting in line, settling into the little car, THEN—off he goes! Though the ride itself isn’t quite what the Pigeon expected, it will delight readers. Wearing his feelings on his wing and speaking directly to the audience in first person, the Pigeon describes realistic thoughts and emotions about waiting and guessing about the unknown—common childhood experiences. No sentiment is misplaced; kids will relate to Pigeon’s eagerness and apprehension. The ending falls somewhat flat, but the whole humorous point is that an underwhelming adventure can still be thrilling enough to warrant repeating. Willems’ trademark droll illustrations will have readers giggling. The roller-coaster attendant is light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4549-4686-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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