The tender, kind friendship outweighs the flaws.

SOMEDAY, NARWHAL

A tiny narwhal dreams of seeing the world beyond her fishbowl.

The little white narwhal’s entire universe seems to be an endless circle: the red front door, potted plant, umbrella stand, piano, and back to the red front door. She wants to travel, but she is worried about obstacles. She can’t walk, is afraid of getting lost, and doesn’t want to get cold. The little white boy who lives outside the bowl sympathizes. His diverse group of friends and their accompanying animals—a penguin, a giraffe, and a bat—are eager to help. They come up with a plan to wheel her through the neighborhood in a little red wagon, and off they go. She is thrilled with everything she sees, especially travel posters that hint of an even wider world. Mantchev keeps the tone simple and innocent, filled with wonder. The friends, both human and animal, are kind and encouraging in words and deeds. Yum’s childlike, softly hued, colored-pencil–and-gouache drawings complement the sweetness of the tale, and her animals more closely resemble cuddly toys than their real-life counterparts. However it is the central premise of the narwhal in a fishbowl that is problematic. That very tiny, cute creature is so far from the reality (5 feet long and 200 pounds at birth, with grayish-brown coloring) as to severely compromise the suspension of disbelief.

The tender, kind friendship outweighs the flaws. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7970-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for...

OLIVER AND HIS EGG

Oliver, of first-day-of-school alligator fame, is back, imagining adventures and still struggling to find balance between introversion and extroversion.

“When Oliver found his egg…” on the playground, mint-green backgrounds signifying Oliver’s flight into fancy slowly grow larger until they take up entire spreads; Oliver’s creature, white and dinosaurlike with orange polka dots, grows larger with them. Their adventures include sharing treats, sailing the seas and going into outer space. A classmate’s yell brings him back to reality, where readers see him sitting on top of a rock. Even considering Schmid’s scribbly style, readers can almost see the wheels turning in his head as he ponders the girl and whether or not to give up his solitary play. “But when Oliver found his rock… // Oliver imagined many adventures // with all his friends!” This last is on a double gatefold that opens to show the children enjoying the creature’s slippery curves. A final wordless spread depicts all the children sitting on rocks, expressions gleeful, wondering, waiting, hopeful. The illustrations, done in pastel pencil and digital color, again make masterful use of white space and page turns, although this tale is not nearly as funny or tongue-in-cheek as Oliver and His Alligator (2013), nor is its message as clear and immediately accessible to children.

Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for all children but sadly isn’t. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7573-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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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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