Surprises, mayhem, potty humor, sharks, and ice cream: What’s not to like? (Picture book. 4-6)


Once children can recognize and read the title, they will easily be able to navigate the rest of this book. “Dude!” is (almost) the only word uttered throughout the story.

Sometimes it is printed in large capital letters, sometimes in diminutive lowercase. The word may be surrounded by a jagged speech bubble, stretched out with five U’s, spoken by one or many, or decorated with sprinkles, but part of the fun of this picture book with graphic-novel overtones is interpreting the proper intonation from the context. A platypus and a beaver are the first two friends to call out to each other as they race to the beach, surfboards at the ready. After an encounter with sea-gull droppings (heralded with one of the few additional words: “SPLAT!”), a shark is spotted. It is cajoled with ice cream, so the nervous duo’s chorus is soon voiced by an exultant trio. Santat varies the page design to pace the over-the-top emotions and action, employing diagonally framed panels, cameos, small insets, and full-bleed double-page spreads. Disaster occurs at the rocks, and if observant readers hadn’t noticed the warning sign at the story’s opening, subsequent readings will reveal this foreshadowing and other clever details. The three dudes resolve the damage, ultimately sharing a sweet denouement under the sunset.

Surprises, mayhem, potty humor, sharks, and ice cream: What’s not to like? (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62672-603-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A sweet read-aloud about friendship, kindness, and equity.


Thanks to a gift from her aunt, Tiana now has two teddy bears, but when her best friend, Timothy, reveals that he’s never had one, Tiana gets a big idea.

Tiana, with light brown skin and Afro-textured pigtails, loves music and her favorite teddy bear, Bach. Tiana and Bach have been through a lot together, and poor Bach is missing an eye, has worn fur, and is oozing stuffing to show for it. One day, her mother surprises her with a new teddy bear, but Tiana is hesitant to replace her much-loved friend. The next day, she races to the playground to discuss the matter with Timothy, a White boy with glasses. Like Tiana, Timothy doesn’t see anything wrong with Bach, going on to tell Tiana that in his house, where money is scarce, “toys aren’t a pri-or-ity.” Tiana is sad for her friend and wants him to also have a teddy bear. She discusses the matter with her mother, who lovingly explains that every family is not the same and that some families are not able to afford the same things as others. After some thought, Tiana decides that she wants Timothy to have her new bear, and her mother agrees. Timothy loves his new bear, naming it Billie, “because he loves jazz,” and the four “all [play] together in perfect harmony.” Empathetic, playful illustrations complement this adorable story, which opens with a note from the authors about their organization, Baby2Baby. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A sweet read-aloud about friendship, kindness, and equity. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-295717-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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