A gentle reminder that runners-up are important, too.

OLIVER

THE SECOND-LARGEST LIVING THING ON EARTH

Oliver, a giant sequoia tree, works hard but unsuccessfully to become the largest living thing on Earth, until he realizes that he is part of something even larger.

Crute and Kim, debut creators, find a standout way to impart an important life lesson about winning and losing. Using as a springboard the facts that a giant sequoia named Gen. Sherman is identified by Sequoia National Park as the largest living tree in the world, by volume, and there are other tall and named trees in Sequoia National Forest, they offer a gentle fantasy in which the second-largest tree, whom they call Oliver, eats well and lifts weight in an effort to grow taller and stronger and thus earn a sign like Sherman’s, but it remains in second place. He looks sadly around and sees his impressive, only slightly shorter, neighbors and realizes that they are all part of “something larger”: a forest (that also has a sign). Clean design extends to sans-serif font and digital illustrations often set on white or pale green space. Only the named trees have detail—arms, expressive faces, and bushy green leaves for hair and beards. The faces of human admirers have varying skin tones. A final page offers other examples of “second-largest things on Earth”—a national park, a country, a state, a mountain, an ocean, and a whale species—and identifies the actual “largest living thing on earth” as a fungus in Oregon.

A gentle reminder that runners-up are important, too. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62414-577-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Page Street

Review Posted Online: July 24, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

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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