Superficially attractive but ultimately misses the mark.

READ REVIEW

I AM TAMA, LUCKY CAT

A JAPANESE LEGEND

This quiet retelling of a popular legend will have limited appeal.

The plot is straightforward, and the cat narrator pleasant if not especially engaging. The qualities of compassion and generosity that are gently demonstrated and the theme of virtue rewarded are undeniably laudable. Unfortunately, readers and listeners will likely feel distanced not just by the time and place of the story (Japan several hundred years ago) but by the formal language, lengthy text and limited, low-key action. A poor monk adopts a stray cat. The monk also cares for the physical and spiritual needs of the people in the surrounding area to the best of his abilities and (very) limited resources. The cat’s habit of raising one paw in a beckoning motion eventually brings good fortune when a rich samurai who happens to be passing is saved from a falling tree during a fierce storm. Like the text, the pictures fail to generate much interest. Jaeggi’s lovely watercolors reflect the serene tone and evoke the exotic setting, and her use of panels echoes traditional Japanese artwork. Depictions of the cat in its characteristic pose seem awkward, but other pictures show flashes of sly feline charm and add some humor and movement. Overall, however, the illustrations have a static feel that weighs down the already slow story. Koko Nishizuka and Rosanne Litzinger's The Beckoning Cat (2009) tells the same story but with greater success.

Superficially attractive but ultimately misses the mark.   (author’s note) (Picture book/folktale. 6-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-56145-589-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: July 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2011

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Everything that readers have come to love about the Elephant & Piggie books is present—masterful pacing, easy-to-follow,...

MY NEW FRIEND IS SO FUN!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Can Gerald and Piggie’s friendship withstand the friendly overtures of Brian Bat?

When Snake informs Gerald that Piggie is playing with Brian Bat, he is at first complacent. Brian is “nice,” he observes; Snake concurs—after all, he says, “Brian is my Best Friend!” Their mutual reflection that Piggie and Brian “must be having a super-duper fun time!” turns, however, to paranoia when they realize that if their best pals “are having that much fun together, then… / …maybe they do not need us” (that last is printed in teeny-tiny, utterly demoralized type). Gerald and Snake dash/slither to put an end to the fun. Their fears are confirmed when the two new buddies tell them they have “been playing BEST FRIEND GAMES!”—which, it turns out, means making drawings of their respective best friends, Gerald and Snake. Awww. While the buildup to the friends’ confrontation is characteristically funny, there’s a certain feeling of anticlimax to the story’s resolution. How many young children, when playing with a new friend, are likely to spend their time thinking of the friends that they are not playing with? This is unfortunate, as the emotions that Gerald and Snake experience are realistic and profound, deserving of more than a platitudinous, unrealistic response.

Everything that readers have come to love about the Elephant & Piggie books is present—masterful pacing, easy-to-follow, color-coded speech bubbles, hilarious body language—except an emotionally satisfying ending. (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7958-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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