Young children will enjoy this picture book’s unlikely story of can-do empowerment, dreams, and friendship, but its...



In Williams’ (A Monster for Tea, 2013, etc.) offbeat picture book, an adventurous young pachyderm experiences numerous delights thanks to a kindhearted boy with a talent for construction.

In this flight of fancy,  a young elephant tries to see what it’s like to sit on a chair (it breaks), ride a bicycle (it folds), sail on a boat (it sinks), and ride in a car (the axles break). When a boy speeds by on a bicycle, the elephant chases after him, and the youngster instantly grasps the animal’s dilemma: “You need someone to help you. To make things that are strong.” So he creates “durable devices that would not fold, break, or bend.” The results, including a car with tires that “would not pop,” are instant and successful. The author/illustrator’s depiction of the wide-eyed elephant in the redesigned car, with the boy looking on, is a highlight of the book. The story undergoes an abrupt tonal shift, though, after the boy and elephant ride and sail together and eventually return to their respective worlds. In the end, the nostalgic adult elephant sadly returns to the site where he and the boy first met, where readers find the “special boat” now “full of holes…a leg from the oversized chair…or perhaps part of the giant car.” Visually, Williams’ use of varied brush strokes and patterns is pleasing to the eye. However, his overall style of charcoal pencil and watercolor illustrations, as if rendered by a very young child, isn’t altogether successful; in particular, the boy’s overly crude rendering lacks the simple elephant shape’s unforced appeal. The title is also a puzzler, as the word “birthday” doesn’t appear anywhere in the text, nor is it a theme of the story.

Young children will enjoy this picture book’s unlikely story of can-do empowerment, dreams, and friendship, but its illustrations could have used some refinement.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0989069861

Page Count: 38

Publisher: Fernwood & Hedges Books

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2015

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Playful, engaging, and full of opportunities for empathy—a raucous storytime hit.


From the There’s a…in Your Book series

Readers try to dislodge a monster from the pages of this emotive and interactive read-aloud.

“OH NO!” the story starts. “There’s a monster in your book!” The blue, round-headed monster with pink horns and a pink-tipped tail can be seen cheerfully munching on the opening page. “Let’s try to get him out,” declares the narrator. Readers are encouraged to shake, tilt, and spin the book around, while the monster careens around an empty background looking scared and lost. Viewers are exhorted to tickle the monster’s feet, blow on the page, and make a really loud noise. Finally, shockingly, it works: “Now he’s in your room!” But clearly a monster in your book is safer than a monster in your room, so he’s coaxed back into the illustrations and lulled to sleep, curled up under one page and cuddling a bit of another like a child with their blankie. The monster’s entirely cute appearance and clear emotional reactions to his treatment add to the interactive aspect, and some young readers might even resist the instructions to avoid hurting their new pal. Children will be brought along on the monster’s journey, going from excited, noisy, and wiggly to calm and steady (one can hope).

Playful, engaging, and full of opportunities for empathy—a raucous storytime hit. (Picture book. 2-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6456-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Unhei has just left her Korean homeland and come to America with her parents. As she rides the school bus toward her first day of school, she remembers the farewell at the airport in Korea and examines the treasured gift her grandmother gave her: a small red pouch containing a wooden block on which Unhei’s name is carved. Unhei is ashamed when the children on the bus find her name difficult to pronounce and ridicule it. Lesson learned, she declines to tell her name to anyone else and instead offers, “Um, I haven’t picked one yet. But I’ll let you know next week.” Her classmates write suggested names on slips of paper and place them in a jar. One student, Joey, takes a particular liking to Unhei and sees the beauty in her special stamp. When the day arrives for Unhei to announce her chosen name, she discovers how much Joey has helped. Choi (Earthquake, see below, etc.) draws from her own experience, interweaving several issues into this touching account and delicately addressing the challenges of assimilation. The paintings are done in creamy, earth-tone oils and augment the story nicely. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 10, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-80613-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2001

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