What does it take to become a hero?

From a tilted airborne angle, the opening double-page spread shows brick houses and tiled roofs in faded reds and warm grays. Where’s Gideon, the “nice boy” in this “once upon a time”? He sits in his yard, tiny and barely noticeable, wearing a red cape that barely registers. Gideon’s life is unsatisfying, and although he soon appears larger—especially when dismembering and stabbing teddy bears—he’s unsure how to become a hero. Must he be strong, brave, and clever? Must he kiss someone? Imagining scenes from familiar fairy tales like “Cinderella,” Gideon concludes that he need only “be in the right place at the right time” and “pay attention.” So he does—except he totally doesn’t. Heroism possibilities appear left and right; Gideon’s oblivious. Then a briefly wordless supermarket scene unfolds with heroism-related twists and hilarity. Someone’s definitely a hero, but is it Gideon? Heide’s third-person-very-limited narration follows Gideon’s unmindful perspective while the illustrations show far more. Groenink uses pencil and Photoshop to create warm, low-saturation scenes with an old-fashioned lilt, using color judiciously in fantasy scenes, such as varying purples during a dragon-killing, or on Gideon’s nose, which is sometimes peach-skinned like the rest of his face but sometimes dark red, plum, or purple. Classical references (Propp & Bettelheim Quality Butchers) add a layered spark.

Heroism with a wink. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4521-2710-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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Safe to creep on by.


Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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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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