Persistence pays off seems to be the message in this bracingly un-Valentine–ish love story.



Children get their first lesson in unrequited love reading the letters between lovelorn Ox and self-centered Gazelle.

To say that Gazelle is a narcissist is putting it mildly. And Ox? Well, ever heard the saying big, dumb ox? Ox, depicted in a white shirt with trousers held up by suspenders, begins the exchange by expressing his admiration for Gazelle and her graceful movements. A turn of the page reveals his correspondent’s answer: a form letter and signed glossy stuffed in an envelope by her assistant while Gazelle, clad in a flapper-style dress, lies on a chaise longue gazing in a mirror. Ox doesn’t see it as a form letter, though, and thanks her for responding personally. Her reply? The same form letter, which Ox takes as a sign of her tidy mind. The letters degrade from there, going from a discussion of Gazelle’s faults (or lack thereof) to a letter stating outright that she could never love a “smelly thing…an animal that is…so thick and ungraceful and awful and unlovely. And unlovable.” Ox loves her even more for admitting this fault to him. This frustrates Gazelle, who rips his picture to shreds. But the next page shows the start of a letter to him; she sits under his pieced-back-together picture, her heart seemingly softened. Campbell’s watercolor-and–colored pencil artwork uses old-fashioned, muted tones, patterns, and background details. Gazelle is elegant and haughty. Ox is moony and down-to-earth.

Persistence pays off seems to be the message in this bracingly un-Valentine–ish love story. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62672-288-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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Never underestimate the feats an animal will brave in order to be reunited with their loved ones.


A tiny tortoise discovers just how brave he is when his girl unexpectedly takes a bus headed away from home.

Truman, like his girl, Sarah, is quiet, “peaceful and pensive,” unlike the busy, noisy city outside their building’s window. In just the first few spreads, Reidy and Cummins manage to capture the close relationship between the girl and her pet, so it’s understandable that Truman should worry when he adds up the day’s mysterious clues: a big backpack, a large banana, a bow in Sarah’s hair, extra green beans in Truman’s dish, and, especially, Sarah boarding the No. 11 bus. He’s so worried that he decides to go after her, a daunting feat for a tortoise the size of a small doughnut. Cummins’ gouache, brush marker, charcoal, colored pencil, and digital illustrations marvelously convey both the big picture of Truman’s navigation of the house and his tortoise’s-eye view of things. And the ending, when Sarah arrives home in time to scoop him up before he slips under the front door, stuttering her amazement at his brave feats, is just right. Sarah and her mother have pale skin and straight, black hair; other city dwellers are diverse. Peaceful and pensive like Truman himself, this book charms; there’s just something uplifting and wonderful about the whole package.

Never underestimate the feats an animal will brave in order to be reunited with their loved ones. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1664-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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Sweet, reassuring fun—and a story to fully embrace.


A slug longs for a hug and finds it unexpectedly.

Doug the slug would really like a hug and plods on, seeking affection. But a caterpillar, bug, spider, and worm want no part of hugging a slug. They are just not feeling it (might they feel sluggish?), voicing their disdain in no uncertain terms with expressions like, “Grimy, slippy!” and “Squelchy, slimy!” What’s a slug to do? Undeterred, Doug keeps trying. He meets Gail, a snail with crimson lipstick and hip, red glasses; she happens to be as grimy and squelchy as he is, so he figures she is the hugger of his dreams. The two embark upon a madcap romantic courtship. Alas, Gail also draws the (slimy) line at hugging Doug. Finally, mournful Doug meets the best hugger and the true love of his life, proving there’s someone for everyone. This charmer will have readers rooting for Doug (and perhaps even wanting to hug him). Expressed in simple, jaunty verses that read and scan smoothly, the brief tale revolves around words that mainly rhyme with Doug and slug. Given that the story stretches vocabulary so well with regard to rhyming words, children can be challenged after a read-aloud session to offer up words that rhyme with slug and snail. The colorful and humorous illustrations are lively and cheerful; googly-eyed Doug is, like the other characters, entertaining and expressive. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sweet, reassuring fun—and a story to fully embrace. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-66590-046-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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