Another sturdy upstart in a perennially popular genre.


While Gwendolyn yearns for a pet, her parents are allergic to many and opposed to all.

They offer a diversionary backyard alternative, which Gwendolyn terms a “box of dirt.” “It’s a bed of soil,” they counter. Where she smells “swamp,” they smell “possibilities.” Accordingly, Gwendolyn launches a new pastime engendering self-education, patience, and delight. She borrows and devours The Great Book of Gardening from the library. She obtains seeds from the community seed library and plants futures of marigolds, basil, fennel, and zucchini. Gwendolyn waters as needed and talks to her invisible charges daily. “But nothing happened.” She bans the neighbor’s dog and affixes a proprietary sign. “But still, nothing happened. / Until the day the soil did a trick.” Tiny leaves push up, joined by others. Gwendolyn names the seedlings and logs information about her growing plants. They blossom, attract bees and butterflies, and bring joy. The soil bed “did not have two legs, four legs, or any legs at all. But it was alive, and Gwendolyn could talk to it, care for it, and watch it grow.” Renaud appealingly conveys the parents’ wryness and daughter’s enthusiasm. The family members, including a baby, all have dark hair and ruddy complexions; the seed exchange’s librarian presents Black. Kheiriyeh’s collages capture Gwendolyn’s bouncy exuberance and present the plants in oversized, stylized fashion. Curiously, a note ties the emergence of seed libraries to the repurposing of library card catalogs—hardly an exclusive purview for either. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 79.1% of actual size.)

Another sturdy upstart in a perennially popular genre. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984815-28-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.


Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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


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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