Friendship trumps gender norms.

BENJI'S DOLL

From the Égalité series

More than anything, a little boy wants a doll.

Freckle-faced, buck-toothed Benji (a little White boy who bears a curious resemblance to Howdy Doody) has made birthday wishes, Christmas lists, and even tossed all of his coins from his piggy bank into a fountain, desperately hoping for a toy doll. His best friend, Jenny, has one (the doll has the same dark brown skin tone as Jenny), and Benji loves to care for it. One day, Mom and Dad give him a large present. An aptly placed page turn keeps readers in suspense, wondering what choice the parents have made. It’s a doll! Benji rushes to the park to show it off. Unfortunately, a bully, a brown-skinned boy named Pablo, grabs the doll and squeezes it so hard one of the eyeballs pops out (a dramatic scene). All seems hopeless, but Pablo (who feels remorse and, it turns out, just didn’t have the social skills to enter the group’s play) comes up with a clever reparation. Facial features are exaggerated in this Spanish import—eyes are large, noses upturned, ears stick out—but no one exudes a more toothy joy than Benji when his wish for a doll finally comes true. Some readers may wonder what took Mom and Dad so long since they are clearly not opposed to giving their son a doll. Still, though slight on story, it’s big on heart and makes for a long-overdue replacement for the venerable William’s Doll, by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by William Pène Du Bois (1972). The original, Spanish edition, La muñeca de Lucas, publishes simultaneously.

Friendship trumps gender norms. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-84-18133-40-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: nubeOCHO

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

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, 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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