The contrast between the sister’s understanding and depicted reality is not enough to maintain this 32-page joke.

THE SWEETEST WITCH AROUND

In the companion title to A Very Brave Witch (2006), the gutsy, green-skinned girl hopes to teach her little sister to be courageous as well.

McGhee positions the older, unnamed witch girl as narrator, reacting to events with a rather smug superiority. She wants Witchling to “study the humans and learn their mysterious ways,” but at the sight and then taste of candy, Witchling’s reaction is “yum” instead of the prescribed “yuck.” At first the older sister is proud of the little one’s bravery, but readers will see that all Witchling’s developed is a sweet tooth. Parents can relate! Misadventures follow as Witchling takes off on a broom to participate in Halloween trick-or-treating. Bliss infuses humor into his watercolor-and-ink scenes by including an anxious yellow cat who interjects “Holy catnip” and “Holy whiskers” in thought bubbles. When Witchling ends up with an overflowing, too-heavy hat full of candy, her older sister swoops in. But the extra weight is too much for the broom, and Witchling must dump out her great haul to the delight of the humans below. Although well-intentioned and not without charming moments, the book lacks a punch in the ending. The older witch is proud of her sister, but it is unclear for what. Taking off on her own?

The contrast between the sister’s understanding and depicted reality is not enough to maintain this 32-page joke. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 5, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-78336

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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A cozy story that will transport readers to faraway places.

A GIFT FOR NANA

All gifts are perfect when they come from the heart.

Rabbit goes on a “journey through a green and grand forest” in order to get a gift for his nana even though it is “not even a major hare holiday.” He travels very far in search of the perfect gift and encounters many new friends whom he asks for help. Each of them proffers Rabbit something they can easily make or acquire: The moon offers a “crescent smile,” a whale proposes a glass of water, and so on. Ultimately, Rabbit finds the perfect gift for Nana all on his own, and his nana absolutely adores it. Although the story is a bit predictable, it is amusing—readers will laugh at the anthropomorphic volcano’s explosion and Rabbit’s exhaustion from his journey, among other chucklesome scenes. Smith’s gesso, oil, and cold wax illustrations are exquisite and almost ethereal. The friendly, many-eyed creature referred to as a “stickler” is at once haunting and intriguing. The moon is Tim Burton–esque and seems to glow and pop off the page. Pleased with his choice of gift, Rabbit has the moon’s smile on his face. The predominance of full-bleed double-page spreads accentuates Rabbit’s long quest. The different font sizes, styles, and colors will aid emerging readers with diction when reading aloud but might prove difficult for those with dyslexia. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A cozy story that will transport readers to faraway places. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-43033-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House Studio

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2022

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