A sweet depiction of sleepy animals that will especially please McPhail fans.

ALL THE AWAKE ANIMALS ARE ALMOST ASLEEP

Alliteration and animals add up to a child asleep in this latest offering from picture-book veterans Dragonwagon and McPhail.

Opening text introduces a familiar bedtime battle of wills between a child who resists slumber and a mother trying to lull him to sleep. This introductory section adopts a rhythmic, rhyming text that culminates with the mother saying, “The answer, darling little child, / is every creature, tame and wild, / has night and day, has still and leap, / has wide awake and sound asleep.” Ensuing pages go through the alphabet using alliterative language to describe animals going to sleep, from: “Antelope is already asleep, all the way to his antlers” to “and Zebra just Zzzzzzzzzzs.” These entries are rather uneven, and while the mother’s recitation may lull the child in the book to sleep, the impact on children listening to the book may be the opposite if they are interested in tracking the alliteration from page to page. Furthermore, the movement away from, and back into, rhyming verse feels rather forced. McPhail’s watercolor-and-ink illustrations, however, are consistently lovely in evoking diverse, sleepy fauna and simplified landscapes from page to page, with the pleasing inclusion of animals who appear in the alphabet pages in the opening and closing bedroom scenes.

A sweet depiction of sleepy animals that will especially please McPhail fans. (Picture book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-07045-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 8, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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Fun format; bland text.

LOVEBLOCK

From the Block Books series

A hefty board book filled with ruminations on the nature of love.

While love is the topic of this board book, it’s the inventive gatefolds and charmingly vintage illustrations that readers will fall for. Brimming with sweeping declarations along the lines of “Love is / strong. // You have my back and I’ll always have yours,” the text sounds like a series of greeting cards strung together. It’s benign enough, but are most toddlers interested in generic proclamations about love? Some statements, like the ones on “unsinkable” hippos or a panda parent holding a cub “steady,” could introduce new vocabulary. At least there’s plenty of winsome critters to fawn over as the surprisingly sturdy flaps tell dramatic little ministories for each cartoon-style animal species. A downcast baby giraffe looks longingly up at a too-high tasty branch; lift a flap to bring an adult giraffe—and the delicacy—down to the baby, or watch an adventurous young fox retreat into a fold-down–flap burrow to learn that “my heart will always be home with you.” At points, the pages are tricky to turn in the correct order, but clever touches, like a series of folds that slow readers down to a sloth’s speed, make up for it. The book concludes with a gatefold revealing a vibrant playground populated with racially and ethnically diverse humans; two are wheelchair users.

Fun format; bland text. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3153-2

Page Count: 84

Publisher: Abrams Appleseed

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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For toddlers unafraid of typical Halloween imagery.

FIVE BLACK CATS

A troop of cats traverse a spooky landscape as they make their way to a party hosted by ghosts.

Each double-page spread shows the felines’ encounters with the likes of an owl, jack-o’-lanterns or a bat. One or two of these creepy meetings may be too abstract for the youngest readers, as the cats hear eerie noises with no discernible source on the page. The text, which consists of one rhyming couplet per scene, mostly scans despite a couple of wobbles: “Five black cats get a bit of a scare / As the flip-flapping wings of a bat fill the air.” The sleek, slightly retro art, likely created using a computer, depicts the cats cavorting at night through a shadowy cityscape, the countryside and a haunted house; they may scare some toddlers and delight others. A brighter color palette would have given the project a friendlier, more universal appeal. Luckily, the well-lit, final party scene provides a playful conclusion.

For toddlers unafraid of typical Halloween imagery. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-58925-611-8

Page Count: 22

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014

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