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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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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