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

YOU CAN DO IT, STINKY FACE!

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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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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Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations.

I BELIEVE I CAN

Diversity is the face of this picture book designed to inspire confidence in children.

Fans of Byers and Bobo’s I Am Enough (2018) will enjoy this book that comes with a universal message of self-acceptance. A line of children practices ballet at the barre; refreshingly, two of the four are visibly (and adorably) pudgy. Another group tends a couple of raised beds; one of them wears hijab. Two more children coax a trepidatious friend down a steep slide. Further images, of children pretending to be pirates, dragons, mimes, playing superhero and soccer, and cooking, are equally endearing, but unfortunately they don’t add enough heft to set the book apart from other empowerment books for children. Though the illustrations shine, the text remains pedagogic and bland. Clichés abound: “When I believe in myself, there’s simply nothing I can’t do”; “Sometimes I am right, and sometimes I am wrong. / But even when I make mistakes, I learn from them to make me strong.” The inclusion of children with varying abilities, religions, genders, body types, and racial presentations creates an inviting tone that makes the book palatable. It’s hard to argue with the titular sentiment, but this is not the only book of its ilk on the shelf.

Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266713-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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