Pleasantly familiar but nothing new.

READ REVIEW

BROWN BEAR CAN'T SLEEP

The familiar picture-book story arc of a bear who cannot fall asleep in the winter is given comparable treatment in this import from China via New Zealand.

The titular brown bear lies abed quite grumpily. Winter is boring, and, in addition, this bear does not like the cold. He is resourceful, though, and he consults reference material, where he finds the solution to his difficulties. Polar bears, he learns, have “thick white fur,” which he can replicate by knitting a sweater—a very big sweater. Sheep have the wool for this sweater, and after much calculation, measurement, diagramming, and washing, Brown Bear is ready to proceed. But first he must count the sheep to be sure he has the right quantity, and another familiar trope enters the story. Knowledgeable listeners know what follows when bears (and children) start counting sheep: sleep. The sheep turn off the lights and wish the bear a goodnight. The tale is mildly pleasant, but it’s still a commonplace theme, and this version adds nothing much new to the realm of bedtime stories. The artwork features stylized animals with shades of brown and blue predominating. Those in search of current titles from China may wish to consider adding this title as representative.

Pleasantly familiar but nothing new. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-76036-048-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Starfish Bay

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way.

THE PIGEON HAS TO GO TO SCHOOL!

From the Pigeon series

All the typical worries and excuses kids have about school are filtered through Willems’ hysterical, bus-loving Pigeon.

Told mostly in speech balloons, the bird’s monologue will have kids (and their caregivers) in stitches at Pigeon’s excuses. From already knowing everything (except whatever question readers choose to provide in response to “Go ahead—ask me a question. / Any question!”) to fearing learning too much (“My head might pop off”), Pigeon’s imagination has run wild. Readers familiar with Pigeon will recognize the muted, matte backgrounds that show off the bird’s shenanigans so well. As in previous outings, Willems varies the size of the pigeon on the page to help communicate emotion, the bird teeny small on the double-page spread that illustrates the confession that “I’m… / scared.” And Pigeon’s eight-box rant about all the perils of school (“The unknown stresses me out, dude”) is marvelously followed by the realization (complete with lightbulb thought bubble) that school is the place for students to practice, with experts, all those skills they don’t yet have. But it is the ending that is so Willems, so Pigeon, and so perfect. Pigeon’s last question is “Well, HOW am I supposed to get there, anyway!?!” Readers will readily guess both the answer and Pigeon’s reaction.

Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04645-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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The book is available in just about every format--but this is the perfect one.

GUESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU

POP-UP

It's hard to believe that a pop-up wasn't the creators' original intention, so seamlessly do moveable parts dovetail into this modern classic's storyline.

In contrast to the tale's 1998 pop -up version, the figures here move on every page, and with an unusually graceful naturalism to boot. From pulling down Big Nutbrown Hare's ears on the opening spread to make sure he's listening to drowsily turning his head to accept a final good-night kiss in a multi-leveled pull-down tableau at the close, all of Little Nutbrown Hare's hops, stretches and small gestures serve the poetically spare text—as do Big Nutbrown's wider, higher responses to his charge's challenges. As readers turn a flap to read Big Nutbrown's "But I love you this much," his arms extend to demonstrate. The emotional connection between the two hares is clearer than ever in Jeram's peaceful, restrained outdoor scenes, which are slightly larger than those in the trade edition, and the closing scene is made even more intimate by hiding the closing line ("I love you right up to the moon—and back") until an inconspicuous flap is opened up.  

The book is available in just about every format--but this is the perfect one. (Pop-up picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7636-5378-1

Page Count: 16

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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