A friendship story for the young and vicious.

FIRE TRUCK VS. DRAGON

The ultimate showdown gets waylaid by an inconvenient friendship.

What could be cooler than a fire truck going head-to-head with a dragon? From the title, fans of Barton’s Shark vs. Train (illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, 2010) will be prepped for some major fire-and-water action. The three child protagonists certainly anticipate a humdinger of a battle, but unfortunately, antipathy is not on the menu. Turns out, Fire Truck and Dragon are the best of buds. Worse, they won’t even take advantage of their natural gifts. A campout sees them making shadow puppets with flashlights. A barbecue is just a chance for them to show off their “free-range potato salad” and “firehouse beans.” And don’t even bother inviting them to your birthday party, unless you just want them spinning you around before you try for the piñata. When at last the two do face off, what occurs? A staring contest. But readers shouldn’t give up hope. They haven’t seen how they say good night. Barton deftly upsets expectations, both for those familiar with his previous book and newcomers who know what “versus” means. Laughs come equally from the disappointed children in the book as well as readers’ thwarted guesses as to what is going to happen. And McCloskey’s daffy cartoons make a perfect complement to Barton’s high-wired hilarity.

A friendship story for the young and vicious. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-52213-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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A wandering effort, happy but pointless.

DRAGONS LOVE TACOS

From the Dragons Love Tacos series

The perfect book for kids who love dragons and mild tacos.

Rubin’s story starts with an incantatory edge: “Hey, kid! Did you know that dragons love tacos? They love beef tacos and chicken tacos. They love really big gigantic tacos and tiny little baby tacos as well.” The playing field is set: dragons, tacos. As a pairing, they are fairly silly, and when the kicker comes in—that dragons hate spicy salsa, which ignites their inner fireworks—the silliness is sillier still. Second nature, after all, is for dragons to blow flames out their noses. So when the kid throws a taco party for the dragons, it seems a weak device that the clearly labeled “totally mild” salsa comes with spicy jalapenos in the fine print, prompting the dragons to burn down the house, resulting in a barn-raising at which more tacos are served. Harmless, but if there is a parable hidden in the dragon-taco tale, it is hidden in the unlit deep, and as a measure of lunacy, bridled or unbridled, it doesn’t make the leap into the outer reaches of imagination. Salmieri’s artwork is fitting, with a crabbed, ethereal line work reminiscent of Peter Sís, but the story does not offer it enough range.

A wandering effort, happy but pointless. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3680-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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

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BE YOU!

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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