An affirmative anthropomorphic story emphasizing perseverance and practice.



A bear learns to skate and defeats a bully in a race in author/illustrator Wilberforce’s debut picture book.

When rollerblading rabbit Kari says that Barry is too big to skate fast, the brown bear is determined to prove her wrong. But when he attempts, Barry falls and feels humiliated as other animals laugh. Kari tells Barry that he’s too slow to race her. Barry feels dejected, and a skilled skater monkey named Fast Tommy offers to help him train. With Tommy’s advice and encouragement, Barry gains confidence. His skating improves, and he masters a challenging move called the “Power Boost,” in which he picks up speed by dipping and then soaring high. He later wins the race by using the move. Barry is elated, and Tommy is proud of his pupil. Readers will root for the affable protagonist’s success as he faces ups and downs in his skating and overcomes doubts. Tommy’s instructions, which emphasize focusing on learning instead of on the unknown outcome, may be helpful to children with their own athletic goals. The full-color, cartoonish illustrations include comic book–like details, such as puffs of dust indicating fast movement and panels showing Barry’s skating progress. Some words, like “SMACK!!” are emphasized in capital letters that make for easy reading.

An affirmative anthropomorphic story emphasizing perseverance and practice.

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 979-8985686630

Page Count: 30

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2022

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Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.


Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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A joyful celebration.


Families in a variety of configurations play, dance, and celebrate together.

The rhymed verse, based on a song from the Noodle Loaf children’s podcast, declares that “Families belong / Together like a puzzle / Different-sized people / One big snuggle.” The accompanying image shows an interracial couple of caregivers (one with brown skin and one pale) cuddling with a pajama-clad toddler with light brown skin and surrounded by two cats and a dog. Subsequent pages show a wide array of families with members of many different racial presentations engaging in bike and bus rides, indoor dance parties, and more. In some, readers see only one caregiver: a father or a grandparent, perhaps. One same-sex couple with two children in tow are expecting another child. Smart’s illustrations are playful and expressive, curating the most joyful moments of family life. The verse, punctuated by the word together, frequently set in oversized font, is gently inclusive at its best but may trip up readers with its irregular rhythms. The song that inspired the book can be found on the Noodle Loaf website.

A joyful celebration. (Board book. 1-3)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-22276-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Rise x Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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