It’s rare to find a real story in a book that brand-new readers can tackle alone—Anna and Toto and the cowboy certainly...

THE COWBOY

From the I Like To Read series

In this German import, Little Anna and her dog have an adventure at the beach.

Anna loves her dog, Toto. When she takes him to the beach, Toto’s scarf matches Anna’s skirt and kerchief: red with white polka dots. As Anna heads toward the water, she passes “a boy in a very silly cowboy hat.” Readers may feel that Anna is a bit silly herself. Toto is not a live dog but a wooden Dalmatian on wheels that must be pulled by a rope. When Toto “learns to swim,” he’s dragged out to the deep water by a wave, and Anna is bereft. Luckily, that silly cowboy has more than a hat with him, and Toto is saved, opening the way to friendship. Saturated digital illustrations have a hand-drawn feel that creates a warm, homey atmosphere. The droll storyline respects the young readers who will no doubt chuckle when Toto is subtly revealed to be a beloved toy rather than a real pup. Even the cowboy, whose body and rope are hidden behind the grown-up beachgoers, is a pleasant surprise. His eyes might be concealed beneath that enormous hat, but his good spirit is clear.

It’s rare to find a real story in a book that brand-new readers can tackle alone—Anna and Toto and the cowboy certainly deliver. (Early reader. 3-5)

Pub Date: May 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3202-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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Another solid addition to the beloved series.

LLAMA LLAMA BACK TO SCHOOL

Summertime with all its pleasures is coming to an end, and school will soon begin again. What challenges will the new school year bring for Llama?

Told in a by-now-trademark rhyming verse style and accompanied by adorable, cheerful oil paint, colored pencil, and oil pastel illustrations, this story finds Llama taking pleasure in all the fun that summer brings—and hoping it will never be over. “Fishing, hiking, slip and slide. / Backyard camping, picnic time.” But as sure as one season follows another, fall is on its way and school will be starting again. Mamma Llama takes Llama shopping for new school supplies, but the expression on little Llama’s face makes it clear that preparing to return to school is anything but fun. Soon, the first day of school comes, and Llama is ready. There are so many rules: “Be on time. / Don’t push or shove. Stand in line. / Do not shout. Raise your hand.” “Lunch in cubbies. Coats on hooks.” But these are seasoned students, and they take it in stride. All except for one: A young rhino is new and feeling scared. Llama knows just what to do, sharing crayons and showing the newcomer how to glue. Soon the rhino is part of the gang. As is characteristic of the series, this is one more situation familiar to many a young child solved in sweet Llama style. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Another solid addition to the beloved series. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35244-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 25, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2022

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WITH ALL MY HEART

A caregiving bear shares with its cub how love has defined their relationship from the first moment and through the years as the cub has grown.

With rhymes and a steady rhythm that are less singsong-y than similar books, Stansbie seems to have hit a sweet spot for this offering on the I-love-you-always shelf. Readers follow the adult and child as they share special moments together—a sunset, a splash in a pond, climbing a tree, a snuggle—and the adult tells the child that the love it feels has only grown. Stansbie also takes care not to put promises in the adult bear’s mouth that can’t be delivered, acknowledging that physical proximity is not always possible: “Wherever you are, / even when we’re apart… // I’ll love you forever / with all of my heart.” The large trim size helps the sweet illustrations shine; their emphasis is on the close relationship between parent and child. Shaped peekaboo windows offer glimpses of preceding and succeeding pages, images and text carefully placed to work whatever the context. While the die cuts on the interior pages will not hold up to rough handling, they do add whimsy and delight to the book as a whole: “And now that you’re bigger, / you make my heart sing. / My / beautiful / wonderful / magical / thing.” Those last three adjectives are positioned in leaf-shaped cutouts, the turn of the page revealing the roly-poly cub in a pile of leaves, three formed by the die-cuts. Opposite, three vignettes show the cub appreciating the “beautiful,” the “wonderful,” and the “magical.”

Sweet. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68412-910-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Silver Dolphin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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