Kids won’t be stone faced and will definitely stick with this delightful story about friendship.

STICK AND STONE

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER!

From the Stick and Stone series

When you search for family—and discover it’s always been there.

The pals introduced in Stick and Stone’s first eponymous outing (2015) set out on a quest for Stick’s literal family tree. From what kind of tree did he break off? Oak, spruce, willow? The duo ventures forth, determined to find Stick’s origins, traversing bodies of water, forests, valleys, and mountains. Though surrounded by trees, Stick can’t find his familial roots. Soon, things turn ominous: Darkness falls, shadows and strange noises become unnerving, and the terrified pair realizes they’re lost. No fear, though. They eventually return safely, and Stone helps disconsolate Stick understand who his family is and always has been—and that differences don’t matter. This sweetly adorable story, expressed textually through simple, jaunty verse, conveys the reassuring message that family and true friends always (ahem) stick by you when you need them. The bright illustrations, aptly set mostly in nature, are equally endearing, with the protagonists exuding optimism and cheerfulness (except during that scary forest adventure). They register a broad range of expressions, though their faces are created merely from dots and curves denoting broad smiles. Brownish Stick bears pairs of short, chunky projectiles connoting limbs; his tilted head resembles a wizard’s cap. Stone is orange-brown and looks like a rotund meatball. Endpapers feature numerous smiling iterations of Stick representing branches from different trees; included labels and leaves show variances.

Kids won’t be stone faced and will definitely stick with this delightful story about friendship. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-47302-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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Slight and contrived.

LITTLE TACO TRUCK

A little orange food truck parks in the same place every day, bringing tacos to hungry construction workers—till one morning, a falafel truck takes his spot.

Miss Falafel then brings by more of her friends, crowding out the taco truck. Little Taco Truck whines and cries, but after four days of being shut out by the bigger trucks, he finally takes the initiative. He spends the night in his former parking space, defending his territory when the other trucks arrive. The rest immediately apologize, and after some creative maneuvering, everyone fits—even the newly arrived noodle truck. Valentine’s naïve call for cooperation glosses over the very real problem of urban gentrification represented by the flood of bigger and better-equipped trucks taking over the neighborhood. When the taco truck is the only game in town, the food line consists of hard-hatted construction workers. Then, as falafel, arepa, gelato, hot dog, and gumbo trucks set up shop, professionals and hipsters start showing up. (All the customers are depicted as animals.) The author also inadvertently equates tacos with a lack of sophistication. “ ‘Hola, Miss Fal…Fal…’ Little Taco Truck tried to sound out the words on the side of the other truck.” Sadly, the truck sells Americanized crisp-shelled tacos. Even the glossary ignores the culinary versatility and cultural authenticity of the soft taco with this oversimplified and inaccurate definition: “A crispy Mexican corn pancake folded or rolled around a filling of meat, beans, and cheese.”

Slight and contrived. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6585-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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