This may have readers wishing their own first days happened underwater.


Mermaids experience their first day of school, and it’s much the same as readers’ own first days, with a few ocean twists.

Rhyming verses follow Molly, a mermaid with an upbeat, can-do attitude, as she heads off to Mermaid School. Outside, she finds a similarly fishtailed boy among the kelp. “ ‘Why are you hiding?’ I ask Squirt. / ‘There’s no one here I know.’ / ‘Well, we can fix that in a flash. / Let’s go and say hello.’ ” Miss Marina, the teacher, leads them in and shows them their cubbies, where they’ll put their “tailpacks” (they are worn just like backpacks, though). Then there’s counting seashells and making art with them, singing the “A-B-Seas,” music class (complete with trumpetfish and drum fish), recess, lunch (“clamburgers” and seaweed pie), circle time, storytime (a fantasy about tailless boys and girls), and the singing of the goodbye song. A page from the “Mermaid School Handbook” follows, emphasizing a few rules and noting some after-school activities. Swaney’s illustrations, seemingly watercolor, are full of small details that suit the underwater setting. Both boys and girls are called mermaids throughout, and all wear sleeveless tops. Though their faces are sweet, they are not overly expressive. Skin and hair color are diverse (Molly presents white); all the tails are a light green.

This may have readers wishing their own first days happened underwater. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-55716-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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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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Willems’ formula is still a winner.


From the Pigeon series

The pigeon is back, and he is filthy!

Readers haven’t seen the pigeon for a couple of years, not since The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? (2012), and apparently he hasn’t bathed in all that time. Per the usual routine, the bus driver (clad in shower cap and bathrobe) opens the story by asking readers to help convince the pigeon to take a bath. Though he’s covered in grime, the obstreperous bird predictably resists. He glares at readers and suggests that maybe they need baths. With the turn of the page, Willems anticipates readers’ energetic denials: The pigeon demands, “YEAH! When was the last time YOU had a bath?!” Another beat allows children to supply the answer. “Oh.” A trio of flies that find him repulsive (“P.U.!”) convinces him it’s time. One spread with 29 separate panels depicts the pigeon adjusting the bath (“Too wet!…Too cold.…Too reflective”) before the page turn reveals him jumping in with a spread-filling “SPLASH!” Readers accustomed to the pigeon formula will note that here the story breaks from its normal rhythms; instead of throwing a tantrum, the pigeon discovers what readers already know: “This is FUN!” All the elements are in place, including page backgrounds that modulate from dirty browns to fresh, clean colors and endpapers that bookend the story (including a very funny turnabout for the duckling, here a rubber bath toy).

Willems’ formula is still a winner. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9087-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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