A solid technical effort that suffers from a severely shorn narrative.


Like the sheep featured in it, this app may not seem quite so appealing if it were stripped of its fluffy, soft surface.

Ben the Tractor, a cheery, grinning red tractor, is tasked by Johnny the Farmer with collecting the sheep around the farm and bringing them back to the corral. Amid ducklings, cows and a horse, Ben seeks out the errant sheep, loads them onto his trailer (with the help of a reader's fingers), then unloads them back near the farm. And... that's about the extent of a less-than-thrilling day on the farm. While the app is pretty solid in nearly every area, from its goofy, cartoony animal animations and sounds to its intuitive, easy-to-navigate interface, it doesn't have much of a story or personality. Ben himself doesn't speak or do much more than chug and smile through uninspired text like, "The Tractor was very happy and was going back to the farm." The app also features a collection of digital jigsaw puzzles built from the story pages, but the fun of the puzzles isn't enhanced much by the forgettable farm fiction. And finishing the tale requires finding all the sheep, thus completing Ben's chores. Miss a sheep, and frustrated young readers won't get to "The End" without some backtracking. It's a shame, too, because the clearly labeled menu buttons, whimsical illustrations and solid narration could have gone somewhere.

A solid technical effort that suffers from a severely shorn narrative. (iPad storybook app. 2-6)

Pub Date: March 19, 2011


Page Count: -

Publisher: ZigZag Studio

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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Safe to creep on by.


Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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