Readers will find this journey poignant, strange, atmospheric, and, ultimately, joyful.

LETTERS FROM BEAR

When migratory Bird wings off for the winter, devoted Bear undertakes a long and perilous journey to follow.

In a series of letters entrusted to the wind, Bear records each stage of the trek. It begins with a venture into scary, dark woods, then goes on to record: Bear’s rescue from a fisherman’s net by a mermaid, the ursine’s narrow escape from a battle between two mounted armies, a desert crossing, an odd but pleasant respite at a squirrel’s 100th birthday party, and other experiences. These culminate in an ocean crossing and landfall at last on a tropical island—where Bear discovers that Bird has already flown off northward. Caudry’s illustrations actually preceded and inspired the storyline. In them she depicts an animistic landscape in which cliff faces in one scene are actually faces, ocean waves become whales at second glance, and creatures met along the way are often extravagantly costumed or sport chimerical features. For all its simple phrasing, the epistolary narrative is infused with longing (“I’m so excited at the idea of being near you. / It fills me with courage. / Your Bear isn’t very far away now!”). By leaving both the relationship and the genders of the two principals unspecified, the narrative allows for a broad range of readings. Occasional human figures among the largely animal cast are uniformly light skinned.

Readers will find this journey poignant, strange, atmospheric, and, ultimately, joyful. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8028-5536-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Eerdmans

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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Superficially appealing; much less so upon closer examination.

TOO MANY CARROTS

When Rabbit’s unbridled mania for collecting carrots leaves him unable to sleep in his cozy burrow, other animals offer to put him up.

But to Rabbit, their homes are just more storage space for carrots: Tortoise’s overstuffed shell cracks open; the branch breaks beneath Bird’s nest; Squirrel’s tree trunk topples over; and Beaver’s bulging lodge collapses at the first rainstorm. Impelled by guilt and the epiphany that “carrots weren’t for collecting—they were for SHARING!” Rabbit invites his newly homeless friends into his intact, and inexplicably now-roomy, burrow for a crunchy banquet. This could be read (with some effort) as a lightly humorous fable with a happy ending, and Hudson’s depictions of carrot-strewn natural scenes, of Rabbit as a plush bunny, and of the other animals as, at worst, mildly out of sorts support that take. Still, the insistent way Rabbit keeps forcing himself on his friends and the magnitude of the successive disasters may leave even less-reflective readers disturbed. Moreover, as Rabbit is never seen actually eating a carrot, his stockpiling looks a lot like the sort of compulsive hoarding that, in humans, is regarded as a mental illness.

Superficially appealing; much less so upon closer examination. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62370-638-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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