Good intentions notwithstanding, this French import is not really a reason to celebrate.

MR. BEAR'S BIRTHDAY

From the Mr. Bear series

Mr. Bear’s birthday guests are on their way!

There’s a party at Mr. Bear’s house, and a madcap group is invited: animals (among them an “always cold” pup in knit cap and puffy coat), humans (one is a pale goth girl accessorized with a snake), and even a visitor “from far away” (an aggressively green, party-hat–clad ET). The eclectic guests include a sloth zooming in a wheelchair, one child with a single parent and another with two dads, and a gender-nonconforming child with a stereotypical boy’s haircut who “likes to wear dresses.” All the aforementioned humans present White; there is only one guest of color, a Black child with an exuberant Afro who, in a rather offensive touch, bears a comb as a gift. “Everyone is invited” is an earnest message, but it gets lost among the long, meandering list of attendees, with the promised party an afterthought. Set against brilliant backgrounds, the dapper guests are illustrated in a portrait style, with their prominent heads gazing out at readers. Labeled, disappointingly flimsy fold-out flaps concealing the gifts accentuate the fantastical ambience, with a “portable radio” present from a rhino in his undies and a first-edition Proust from a bibliophile bear. An almost comically oversized trim has scale problems: It’s cumbersome for lap children, but the foldouts are too small to use in group settings.

Good intentions notwithstanding, this French import is not really a reason to celebrate. (Board book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-03631-825-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Twirl/Chronicle

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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This TV rerun in board-book form has nothing new to offer.

PEPPA'S GIANT PUMPKIN

From the Peppa Pig series

Peppa hopes to join her classmates in a Halloween pumpkin competition in this adaptation of a story from the popular British television program Peppa Pig.

With the help of Granny and Grandpa Pig, Peppa turns her giant pumpkin, which is the size of a compact car, into a jack-o’-lantern. The trio is flummoxed when it comes time to transport the pumpkin to the competition, so they call on Miss Rabbit and her helicopter to airlift the pumpkin to the festivities as Peppa and her grandparents ride inside. Peppa arrives just in time for the contest and wins the prize for best flying pumpkin. The scenes look as if they are pulled directly from the television show, right down to the rectangular framing of some of the scenes. While the story is literally nothing new, the text is serviceable, describing the action in two to three sentences per page. The pumpkin-shaped book and orange foil cover will likely attract youngsters, whether they are Peppa fans or not.

This TV rerun in board-book form has nothing new to offer. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: July 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-33922-2

Page Count: 10

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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Fun format; bland text.

LOVEBLOCK

From the Block Books series

A hefty board book filled with ruminations on the nature of love.

While love is the topic of this board book, it’s the inventive gatefolds and charmingly vintage illustrations that readers will fall for. Brimming with sweeping declarations along the lines of “Love is / strong. // You have my back and I’ll always have yours,” the text sounds like a series of greeting cards strung together. It’s benign enough, but are most toddlers interested in generic proclamations about love? Some statements, like the ones on “unsinkable” hippos or a panda parent holding a cub “steady,” could introduce new vocabulary. At least there’s plenty of winsome critters to fawn over as the surprisingly sturdy flaps tell dramatic little ministories for each cartoon-style animal species. A downcast baby giraffe looks longingly up at a too-high tasty branch; lift a flap to bring an adult giraffe—and the delicacy—down to the baby, or watch an adventurous young fox retreat into a fold-down–flap burrow to learn that “my heart will always be home with you.” At points, the pages are tricky to turn in the correct order, but clever touches, like a series of folds that slow readers down to a sloth’s speed, make up for it. The book concludes with a gatefold revealing a vibrant playground populated with racially and ethnically diverse humans; two are wheelchair users.

Fun format; bland text. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3153-2

Page Count: 84

Publisher: abramsappleseed

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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