Whether their first or fourth outing with these winning sibs, kids will savor this supportive read.

CHARLIE & MOUSE OUTDOORS

The Geisel Award–winning sibling duo returns in their fourth adventure, this time in the great outdoors. 

Series fans will be thrilled to follow Charlie and Mouse’s first adventure beyond their neighborhood. This gently humorous story captures familiar elements of a family camping trip, starting with the boring car ride, moving on to an eventful (and sometimes scary!) hike, followed by playing inside the tent, and a fireside cuddle with Dad and Mom while munching on burned marshmallows. The cast here is reduced to just family members, but the siblings’ fantastic imaginations fill the void with creatures both real and make-believe. The strong sibling connection takes center stage in every chapter, with Charlie providing comfort and entertainment for his little brother using his expansive storytelling skills. Similarly, the dialogue and action focus on the boys, with parental reassurance and mild exasperation depicted mostly visually. Page layouts are composed deliberately, marrying words and pictures to support developing readers. The white space surrounding each line of text is ample, and illustrations, placed just so against the crisp white pages, provide contextual support. Word and sentence repetition is woven seamlessly into the narrative, allowing readers to gain confidence and mastery over new vocabulary, while Hughes’ soft-hued, detailed illustrations deftly navigate between real and imaginary worlds. Charlie and Mouse are biracial, with an Asian dad and white mom.

Whether their first or fourth outing with these winning sibs, kids will savor this supportive read. (Early reader. 6-9)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7066-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Well-meaning and with a lovely presentation, this sentimental effort may be aimed more at adults than kids.

MY LITTLE BRAVE GIRL

Little girls are given encouragement and assurance so they can meet the challenges of life as they move through the big, wide world.

Delicately soft watercolor-style art depicts naturalistic scenes with a diverse quintet of little girls portraying potential situations they will encounter, as noted by a narrative heavily dependent on a series of clichés. “The stars are high, and you can reach them,” it promises as three of the girls chase fireflies under a star-filled night sky. “Oceans run deep, and you will learn to swim,” it intones as one girl treads water and another leans over the edge of a boat to observe life on the ocean floor. “Your feet will take many steps, my brave little girl. / Let your heart lead the way.” Girls gingerly step across a brook before making their way through a meadow. The point of all these nebulous metaphors seems to be to inculcate in girls the independence, strength, and confidence they’ll need to succeed in their pursuits. Trying new things, such as foods, is a “delicious new adventure.” Though the quiet, gentle text is filled with uplifting words that parents will intuitively relate to or comprehend, the esoteric messages may be a bit sentimental and ambiguous for kids to understand or even connect to. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.5-by-19-inch double-page spreads viewed at 50% of actual size.)

Well-meaning and with a lovely presentation, this sentimental effort may be aimed more at adults than kids. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30072-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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