Steady and bright, this will appeal to toddlers looking for comfort, not thrills.

STANLEY THE FARMER

From the Stanley series

A cartoonlike hamster named Stanley and two other small mammals demonstrate the steps used to plant, maintain and harvest wheat at a typical commercial farm.

Clear, bright graphics depict a red tractor emerging from a barn, along with the words “Where is Stanley? He is going to be very busy today on his farm.” Observant readers who have noticed Stanley’s pink nose on the cover and title page will also be able to spot said nose poking out of the barn door. So far, so good. The next page shows Stanley on the tractor, atop a simple, effective depiction of soil. The ensuing text teaches agricultural vocabulary and techniques to the toddler set, though without a whole lot of flair. “Stanley pulls the green plow with his red tractor.” Later: “He uses his big green combine. The grain goes into the sacks, and the straw comes out of the back.” Friends Shamus—a mole, perhaps?—and Little Woo, a smaller version of Shamus, help with such activities as spreading manure (“smelly work!”), watering and baling. Patterns of sticklike wheat turning from green to yellow are attractive inclusions. The book ends with the same confusing implication as the beginning: that everything inside the pages represents one day, instead of one growing season, in Stanley’s life. A reference to twice-daily watering is not enough to counteract this.

Steady and bright, this will appeal to toddlers looking for comfort, not thrills. (Picture book. 2-4)

Pub Date: March 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-56145-803-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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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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For toddlers unafraid of typical Halloween imagery.

FIVE BLACK CATS

A troop of cats traverse a spooky landscape as they make their way to a party hosted by ghosts.

Each double-page spread shows the felines’ encounters with the likes of an owl, jack-o’-lanterns or a bat. One or two of these creepy meetings may be too abstract for the youngest readers, as the cats hear eerie noises with no discernible source on the page. The text, which consists of one rhyming couplet per scene, mostly scans despite a couple of wobbles: “Five black cats get a bit of a scare / As the flip-flapping wings of a bat fill the air.” The sleek, slightly retro art, likely created using a computer, depicts the cats cavorting at night through a shadowy cityscape, the countryside and a haunted house; they may scare some toddlers and delight others. A brighter color palette would have given the project a friendlier, more universal appeal. Luckily, the well-lit, final party scene provides a playful conclusion.

For toddlers unafraid of typical Halloween imagery. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-58925-611-8

Page Count: 22

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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