Fans of the series will always clamor for more, but this is not likely to be one that they will ask for again and again.

LLAMA LLAMA LOVES TO READ

From the Llama Llama series

Llama Llama is growing up and experiencing the frustrations and excitement of learning to read.

Llama Llama knows the alphabet, but the next step is to put those letters together to make words. And putting those words together makes stories! Progress is slow going at first, beginning with familiar words such as Llama Llama’s name and “love.” But the pace picks up, and soon Llama Llama is a proud reader (all seemingly in one day). Some rhymes are a bit off, and the feel is more instructional than warm: “Words tell truth. / Words tell new things. / Words make songs / that we can sing! // Words are the very best of presents. / Words together make a sentence!” What shines is the tiny llama’s perseverance and sense of personal achievement. “Who can’t wait to read to Mama? / You’re a READER, llama llama (sic)!” Duncan, Dewdney’s partner and director of the Anna E. Dewdney Literary Trust, collaborated with the late, beloved author on the text of this newest in the series. Morrow closely follows Dewdney’s art style with bright, bold colors and expressive animal friends. Perhaps inevitably, the whole package doesn’t quite feel like a true Llama Llama book, but it is an adequate example of the learning-to-read genre.

Fans of the series will always clamor for more, but this is not likely to be one that they will ask for again and again. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-670-01397-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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A visually striking, compelling recollection.

FROM THE TOPS OF THE TREES

The author recounts a formative childhood experience that continues to inspire her today.

Born to Hmong refugees, Kalia has only ever known the confines of the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand. Even while playing with her cousins, reminders of the hardships of their life are always present. She overhears the aunties sharing their uncertainty and fear of the future. They are a people with no home country and are still trying to find peace. Kalia asks her father why they live behind a gate and wonders what lies beyond the fences that surround the camp. The next day they climb a tall tree, and he shows her the vast expanse around them, from familiar camp landmarks to distant mountains “where the sky meets earth.” This story of resilience and generational hope is told in an expressive, straightforward narrative style. The simplicity of the text adds a level of poignancy that moves readers to reflection. The layered and heavily textured illustrations complement the text while highlighting the humanity of the refugees and providing a quiet dignity to camp life. The militarylike color palette of olive greens, golden yellows, and rich browns reinforces the guarded atmosphere but also represents the transitional period from winter to spring, a time ripe with anticipation and promise.

A visually striking, compelling recollection. (author's note, glossary, map.) (Picture book/memoir. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5415-8130-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Preachy and predictable.

RUBYLICIOUS

From the Pinkalicious series

Pinkalicious is excited to add the 100th rock to her rock collection.

Her brother, Peter, is not impressed. He thinks the rock looks dirty and that it isn’t special at all. When the siblings try to rub the rock clean, though, something wonderful happens: A magical figure emerges in a cloud of red smoke. Rather than ask her name, Pinkalicious and Peter tell her they will call her Rocky. Rocky accepts the new name and nervously says that she can grant the children a wish. But every time the sister and brother make a wish, Rocky initially grants it and then talks them out of it. When Peter and Pinkalicious wish for a gigantic mountain of sweets, for instance, a timorous Rocky shows them how eating so much sugar harms their bodies. When the children wish that they could fly, Rocky shows them how dangerous flying can be. When they wish to live in a castle, Rocky gives them a palace that is too large and cold to be any fun. In the end, Pinkalicious and Peter decide that the best wish they can make isn’t for themselves but for Rocky—a decision that leads to even more magical results. This latest series installment underwhelms. In addition to the arbitrary plot and wooden dialogue, Pinkalicious and Peter come across as maddeningly entitled. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Preachy and predictable. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-305521-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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