Can you love another update? We think you will, we think you will, we think you will….

THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD

90TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Thinking it can for its 90th year, an old friend receives a shiny new update.

Fifteen years after Loren Long’s 75th-anniversary interpretation, Caldecott winner Santat tries his hand at this work of classic children’s literature. Once more a train filled with toys and goodies for all those “good little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain” can only be saved by the smallest, most determined engine of them all. As no part of the text has been changed (the “jackknives” for children remain intact in the train’s inventory), Santat’s challenge is to bring the engine into the 21st century visually. Now the “funny little clown” is actually small instead of adult-sized, and one of the dolls depicted has brown skin and straight, dark hair (the other is white with Shirley Temple ringlets). In Santat’s version, when the Little Blue Engine pulls away from the engine that broke down, one of the toys waves goodbye, and it looks on in relief. Some scenes directly reference the earlier editions, such as a shot of the Little Blue Engine pulling over a bridge as animals run alongside. Kids will enjoy small details, like the toy plane that appears in almost every spread. Adults will enjoy the generous format and Santat’s lovingly rendered landscapes. Notes from Dolly Parton and Santat bookend the story.

Can you love another update? We think you will, we think you will, we think you will…. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09439-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Adults will do better skipping the book and talking with their children.

AN ABC OF EQUALITY

Social-equity themes are presented to children in ABC format.

Terms related to intersectional inequality, such as “class,” “gender,” “privilege,” “oppression,” “race,” and “sex,” as well as other topics important to social justice such as “feminism,” “human being,” “immigration,” “justice,” “kindness,” “multicultural,” “transgender,” “understanding,” and “value” are named and explained. There are 26 in all, one for each letter of the alphabet. Colorful two-page spreads with kid-friendly illustrations present each term. First the term is described: “Belief is when you are confident something exists even if you can’t see it. Lots of different beliefs fill the world, and no single belief is right for everyone.” On the facing page it concludes: “B is for BELIEF / Everyone has different beliefs.” It is hard to see who the intended audience for this little board book is. Babies and toddlers are busy learning the names for their body parts, familiar objects around them, and perhaps some basic feelings like happy, hungry, and sad; slightly older preschoolers will probably be bewildered by explanations such as: “A value is an expression of how to live a belief. A value can serve as a guide for how you behave around other human beings. / V is for VALUE / Live your beliefs out loud.”

Adults will do better skipping the book and talking with their children. (Board book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78603-742-8

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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Smoother rides are out there.

BUSY STREET

From the Beginner Books series

Mommy and Bonnie—two anthropomorphic rodents—go for a joyride and notice a variety of conveyances around their busy town.

The pair encounter 22 types of vocational vehicles as they pass various sites, including a fire engine leaving a firehouse, a school bus approaching a school, and a tractor trailer delivering goods to a supermarket. Narrated in rhyming quatrains, the book describes the jobs that each wheeled machine does. The text uses simple vocabulary and sentences, with sight words aplenty. Some of the rhymes don't scan as well as others, and the description of the mail truck’s role ("A mail truck brings / letters and cards / to mailboxes / in people's yards) ignores millions of readers living in yardless dwellings. The colorful digitally illustrated spreads are crowded with animal characters of every type hustling and bustling about. Although the art is busy, observant viewers may find humor in details such as a fragile item falling out of a moving truck, a line of ducks holding up traffic, and a squirrel’s spilled ice cream. For younger children enthralled by vehicles, Sally Sutton’s Roadwork (2011) and Elizabeth Verdick’s Small Walt series provide superior text and art and kinder humor. Children who have little interest in cars, trucks, and construction equipment may find this offering a yawner. Despite being advertised as a beginner book, neither text nor art recommend this as an engaging choice for children starting to read independently. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Smoother rides are out there. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-37725-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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