Clever fun carries a sweet feel-good message about real, true, loving friendships.


Two little neighbors are best friends who love to play and do things together—until things change.

A tea-party disaster leads to blame, recrimination, and an end to their good times. Each claims to have lots of other friends, so they don’t really need each other. To prove this, each literally makes a bunch of creatively designed friends from found objects. But Max and Xam learn that there can be no fun with these inanimate friends, and they quickly realize how much they miss each other. Atonement gifts are exchanged, and happiness ensues. Hofmann-Maniyar employs straightforward, simple language, accessible to even the youngest readers or listeners. Literal-minded little readers will immediately get the delightful wordplay and take it to heart. The text, rarely more than one sentence per page, is carefully placed relative to the illustrations, with both the explosive argument and the final reconciliation shouted in huge, messy lettering. Minutely detailed illustrations in shades of blue and purple, with lots of white space interspersed, move and enhance the tale and provide lots of laughs and surprises. Bean-shaped Max and Xam, whose names do not indicate gender, are also of unknown species. Max is in blue fur with orange hands and feet. Xam is orange with rabbitlike ears and blue-clawed hands and feet. They both have stark white faces with flat, black features and pink-dot cheeks.

Clever fun carries a sweet feel-good message about real, true, loving friendships. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-78628-087-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Child's Play

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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

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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.


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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