A bit too straightforward with its lesson, but this British import has both a heart and a spirited lead.

FREE TO BE ELEPHANT ME

What will Num-Num’s Elephant Name be?

Elephant tradition demands that every young elephant perform for Elephant Mighty to show they are best at something. Elephant Mighty, depicted in the illustrations as a tusked, enthroned bull with crown and ermine-trimmed robe, will then reward them with an Elephant Name. When Nina pulls a tree from the ground with her trunk, Elephant Mighty says, “Your trunk is so splendid and long! / I never imagined that tree would come loose. / I’m calling you ELEPHANT STRONG!” But Num-Num doesn’t have a talent. Though he tries a few tricks when forced to, the elephants laugh at him, and Elephant Mighty dubs him Elephant Nothing. Num-Num moves far away to his own watering hole, where, because he is such a sweet elephant, he makes a lot of new friends of many different species. When they hear his story, they’re shocked. The group treks back to tell Elephant Mighty how wrong he was. Num-Num tells a skeptical ruler that he wants to be Elephant Me. “I may not be noisy or tough, / But the hardest thing sometimes is just to be YOU, / And to know being YOU is ENOUGH.” Elephant Mighty has a surprising response, and everything ends with a dance. Andreae’s signature perky, rhymed verse (here set in abcb quatrains) pairs nicely with Parker-Rees’ sunny cartoon illustrations.

A bit too straightforward with its lesson, but this British import has both a heart and a spirited lead. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-338-73427-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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A terrific choice for the preschool crowd.

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TIME FOR SCHOOL, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Little Blue Truck learns that he can be as important as the big yellow school bus.

Little Blue Truck is driving along the country road early one morning when he and driver friend Toad come across a big, yellow, shiny school bus. The school bus is friendly, and so are her animal passengers, but when Little Blue Truck wishes aloud he could do an important job like hers, the school bus says only a bus of her size and features can do this job. Little Blue Truck continues along, a bit envious, and finds Piggy crying by the side of the road, having missed the bus. Little Blue tells Piggy to climb in and takes a creative path to the school—one the bus couldn’t navigate—and with an adventurous spirit, gets Piggy there right on time. The simple, rhyming text opens the story with a sweet, fresh, old-fashioned tone and continues with effortlessly rhythmical lines throughout. Little Blue is a brave, helpful, and hopeful character young readers will root for. Adults will feel a rush of nostalgia and delight in sharing this story with children as the animated vehicles and animals in innocent, colorful countryside scenes evoke wholesome character traits and values of growth, grit, and self-acceptance. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A terrific choice for the preschool crowd. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-41224-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2021

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Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way.

THE PIGEON HAS TO GO TO SCHOOL!

From the Pigeon series

All the typical worries and excuses kids have about school are filtered through Willems’ hysterical, bus-loving Pigeon.

Told mostly in speech balloons, the bird’s monologue will have kids (and their caregivers) in stitches at Pigeon’s excuses. From already knowing everything (except whatever question readers choose to provide in response to “Go ahead—ask me a question. / Any question!”) to fearing learning too much (“My head might pop off”), Pigeon’s imagination has run wild. Readers familiar with Pigeon will recognize the muted, matte backgrounds that show off the bird’s shenanigans so well. As in previous outings, Willems varies the size of the pigeon on the page to help communicate emotion, the bird teeny small on the double-page spread that illustrates the confession that “I’m… / scared.” And Pigeon’s eight-box rant about all the perils of school (“The unknown stresses me out, dude”) is marvelously followed by the realization (complete with lightbulb thought bubble) that school is the place for students to practice, with experts, all those skills they don’t yet have. But it is the ending that is so Willems, so Pigeon, and so perfect. Pigeon’s last question is “Well, HOW am I supposed to get there, anyway!?!” Readers will readily guess both the answer and Pigeon’s reaction.

Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04645-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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