An adorable hamster, a fire engine, and fireworks: high preschooler appeal.

STANLEY'S FIRE ENGINE

From the Stanley series

Stanley the hamster and friends show the parts and uses of his fire engine.

Bee’s hamster is back again, this time using his fire engine to help friends and assist with a fireworks display. Stanley’s truck itself might look a bit unfamiliar to little readers, as it isn’t a modern shiny vehicle but rather a 1940s version used in Great Britain, with a wooden ladder and large wheel that ratchets it up protruding from the rear. In a 90-degree turn sure to delight little ones, readers see Stanley atop the wooden ladder, its gears and wheel on display. Together with his chipmunk friend Peggy, Stanley uses the fire engine for kid-friendly activities, such as rescuing kites from a tree, filling a baby pool, and standing by at a fireworks show. In fact, the only real mention of firefighting is when mouse friend Charlie’s barbecue goes awry. Bee’s illustrations, familiar to Stanley fans, are simply wrought, black-outlined images mostly presented against white backgrounds. The two layouts that vary stand out as a result: the bursting fireworks against a dark blue sky and Stanley’s nighttime arrival at home, a blue-washed scene with a gorgeous glowing lantern. Both will earn a lingering look of awe from readers.

An adorable hamster, a fire engine, and fireworks: high preschooler appeal. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68263-214-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Animated and educational.

I'M A HARE, SO THERE!

A hare and a ground squirrel banter about the differences between related animals that are often confused for one another.

Jack is “no Flopsy, Mopsy, or Cottontail,” but a “H-A-R-E, hare!” Like sheep and goats, or turtles and tortoises, rabbits and hares may look similar, but hares are bigger, their fur changes color in the winter, and they are born with their eyes wide open. As the ground squirrel (not to be mistaken for a chipmunk (even though Jack cheekily calls it “Chippie”) and Jack engage in playful discussion about animals, a sneaky coyote prowls after them through the Sonoran Desert. This picture book conveys the full narrative in spirited, speech-bubbled dialogue set on expressive illustrations of talking animals. Dark outlines around the characters make their shapes pop against the softly blended colors of the desert backgrounds. Snappy back-and-forth paired with repetition and occasional rhyme enhances the story’s appeal as a read-aloud. As the story progresses, the colors of the sky shift from dawn to dusk, providing subtle, visual bookends for the narrative. One page of backmatter offers a quick guide to eight easily confused pairs, and a second turns a subsequent exploration of the book into a seek-and-find of 15 creatures (and one dessert) hidden in the desert. Unfortunately, while most of the creatures from the seek-and-find appear in poses that match the illustrations in the challenge, not all of them are consistently represented. (This book was reviewed digitally with 7-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 53.3% of actual size.)

Animated and educational. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-12506-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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