A fun-filled story that delivers the true nature of the Olympian spirit.

MAX AND MARLA

A boy and an owl learn what it takes to become true Olympians in this picture book.

Best friends Max and Marla, the narrator tells readers, are Olympians. Although Max is a little boy and Marla is an owl, the narrator insists they are “real-life, honest to goodness, cross your heart…Olympians.” When Max and Marla set out to sled down a snowy mountain slope but don’t slide, they realize that their sled needs wax and that “preparation is key.” Attempt No. 2 ends when an out-of-control wind takes them into a tree. But “true Olympians never give up,” and after a recovery sick day, when the Olympians learn that “taking care of yourself is...probably most important of all,” they try again. Despite their careful preparations, the sled crashes once more, and Max and Marla end up as balls of snow, which they turn into snow angels as they extricate themselves. The summary attribute, an attitude that turns “obstacles…into victories,” is underscored by the final illustration, showing Max and Marla bestowing doughnut “medals” to each other. Author/illustrator Boiger’s story is graceful, and her limited-palette watercolor illustrations in well-designed combinations—including spot illustrations, full-page bleeds, and double-page spreads—effectively keep readers’ attention on the story and do not overwhelm with gratuitous detail.

A fun-filled story that delivers the true nature of the Olympian spirit. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-399-17504-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2015

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Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life.

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BE YOU!

An inspirational picture book offers life advice for readers who want to be themselves.

Replete with sparkling, often quirky illustrations of children living their best lives, this book is a gorgeous guidebook for those seeking encouragement while encountering life’s challenges. The children featured—a racially diverse group ranging from infants to preschoolers—cheerfully navigate the various injunctions that flow through the text: “Be curious.…Be adventurous.…Be persistent.…Be kind.” What is remarkable about the book is that even though the instructions and the brief sentences explaining them are at times vague, the illustrations expand on them in ways readers will find endearing and uplifting. Those depicting painful or challenging moments are especially effective. The “Be persistent” double-page spread shows a child in a boat on stormy seas; it’s rich with deep blues as it emphasizes the energy of wind and rain and struggle in the face of challenge. Together with the accompanying repeated phrase “Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop,” this spread arrests readers. By contrast, the “Be kind. Be understanding” spread simply presents two children’s faces, one cast in blue and the other in gold, but the empathy that Reynolds conveys is similarly captivating. While there is no plot to pull readers through the pages, the book provides rich fodder for caregivers to use as teachable moments, both informally and in classroom settings.

Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-57231-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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