A breezy, rhyming story with competent illustrations but with an unquestioned anthropocentric presentation.

ZZZOOKEEPER

In this picture book, animals at the zoo have a lively night while the zookeeper sleeps.

In singsong, rhyming text, Hutton presents a fanciful story of zoo animals cavorting and carousing instead of going to sleep. And why are the animals not cooperating with bedtime expectations? Because the elderly zookeeper is asleep in bed, complete with eye mask (here’s hoping their leopard-spot design, and that of her curtains, derives from printed fabric and not from actual leopard pelts). Naturally, the animals use this freedom from supervision to party. Young readers will definitely relate. Many types of animals are presented in Hutton’s breezy rhymes, and their behavior is a transparent stand-in for human children’s: “On their beds jump kangaroos. Silly monkeys swinging too.” Cenko’s colorful illustrations, all full-bleed single- or double-page spreads, do a good job of capturing the rambunctious crew with amusing details and without overdone anthropomorphization. There is, however, a certain sameness to the presentation (animals enacting hijinks in spread after spread) that grows old. A bedtime story for children that familiarizes them with animals is a worthy objective, but presenting the notion that animals in zoos are having a wonderful time is a concept that may well not sit right with many readers. Backmatter does, however, present some physiological facts about the animals.

A breezy, rhyming story with competent illustrations but with an unquestioned anthropocentric presentation. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-93666-969-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: blue manatee press

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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A forgettable tale.

THE LITTLEST REINDEER

Dot, the smallest reindeer at the North Pole, is too little to fly with the reindeer team on Christmas Eve, but she helps Santa in a different, unexpected way.

Dot is distressed because she can’t jump and fly like the other, bigger reindeer. Her family members encourage her and help her practice her skills, and her mother tells her, “There’s always next year.” Dot’s elf friend, Oliver, encourages her and spends time playing with her, doing things that Dot can do well, such as building a snowman and chasing their friend Yeti (who looks like a fuzzy, white gumdrop). On Christmas Eve, Santa and the reindeer team take off with their overloaded sleigh. Only Dot notices one small present that’s fallen in the snow, and she successfully leaps into the departing sleigh with the gift. This climactic flying leap into the sleigh is not adequately illustrated, as Dot is shown just starting to leap and then already in the sleigh. A saccharine conclusion notes that being little can sometimes be great and that “having a friend by your side makes anything possible.” The story is pleasant but predictable, with an improbably easy solution to Dot’s problem. Illustrations in a muted palette are similarly pleasant but predictable, with a greeting-card flavor that lacks originality. The elf characters include boys, girls, and adults; all the elves and Santa and Mrs. Claus are white.

A forgettable tale. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-15738-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Fun format; bland text.

LOVEBLOCK

From the Block Books series

A hefty board book filled with ruminations on the nature of love.

While love is the topic of this board book, it’s the inventive gatefolds and charmingly vintage illustrations that readers will fall for. Brimming with sweeping declarations along the lines of “Love is / strong. // You have my back and I’ll always have yours,” the text sounds like a series of greeting cards strung together. It’s benign enough, but are most toddlers interested in generic proclamations about love? Some statements, like the ones on “unsinkable” hippos or a panda parent holding a cub “steady,” could introduce new vocabulary. At least there’s plenty of winsome critters to fawn over as the surprisingly sturdy flaps tell dramatic little ministories for each cartoon-style animal species. A downcast baby giraffe looks longingly up at a too-high tasty branch; lift a flap to bring an adult giraffe—and the delicacy—down to the baby, or watch an adventurous young fox retreat into a fold-down–flap burrow to learn that “my heart will always be home with you.” At points, the pages are tricky to turn in the correct order, but clever touches, like a series of folds that slow readers down to a sloth’s speed, make up for it. The book concludes with a gatefold revealing a vibrant playground populated with racially and ethnically diverse humans; two are wheelchair users.

Fun format; bland text. (Board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3153-2

Page Count: 84

Publisher: Abrams Appleseed

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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