Sentiment, text, and illustrations all cry out for a reissue in a larger format.


From the Stinky Face series

Using a board-book format, McCourt brings a message of unconditional parental love and support to the youngest story listeners.

As in earlier, standard-format books in the series, an inquisitive child imagines increasingly preposterous scenarios, asking Mama to imagine whether the child might be successful in each. The story starts with the child's plausible desire to draw the “most exciting picture ever.” Mama's encouraging response is accompanied by an homage to Van Gogh's Starry Night created by this obviously gifted child. The situations become increasingly unlikely, but Mama patiently, reassuringly, and consistently voices her confidence in her child's ability to overcome obstacles, conquer fear, and triumph over adversity: “You can do it, Stinky Face!” The blond child clad in striped leggings and a plain, purple top is satisfyingly androgynous, allowing both girls and boys to put themselves in that place. With far more words and plot than in most board books, this offering really exceeds the board-book audience. Given the small (5 inches by 6 inches) format, it is challenging to appreciate the details in the bright, colorful illustrations, which compete with the extensive text for attention. The small format makes it suitable only for one-to-one sharing, though the message would be ideal for parent education programs.

Sentiment, text, and illustrations all cry out for a reissue in a larger format. (Board book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-545-80648-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2016

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Exciting artwork paired with disappointingly dull text.


Rhyming verses about kindness using a consistent metaphor of widening cracks versus blooming plants are amplified by cutouts on each page.

The art and layout are spectacular, from the cover through the double-page spreads near the end. Racially diverse toddlers are shown engaging in various moods and behaviors, some of which create unhappiness and some of which lead to friendship and happiness. Every page’s color palette and composition perfectly complement the narrative. The initial verso shows two children in aggressive stances, backgrounded by a dark, partly moonlit sky. Between them is a slender, crooked cutout. The large-type text reads: “It all / starts / with a / crack / that we can hardly see. / It happens when we shout / or if we disagree.” The recto shows two children in sunlight, with one offering a pretty leaf to the other, and the rhyme addresses the good that grows from kindness. In this image, the crooked die cut forms the trunk of a tiny sapling. Until the final double-page spreads, the art follows this clever setup: dark deeds and a crack on the left, and good deeds and a growing tree on the right. Unfortunately, the text is far from the equal of the art: It is banal and preachy, and it does not even scan well without some effort on the part of whomever is reading it. Still, the youngest children will solemnly agree with the do’s and don’ts, and they may decide to memorize a page or two.

Exciting artwork paired with disappointingly dull text. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68010-229-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tiger Tales

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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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, 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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