Lighthearted and lots of fun.

PENGUIN FLIES HOME

From the Flight School series

The rotund, ambitious hero of Flight School (2014) returns home to Antarctica to share the magic of flying above the earth with his penguin friends.

When Teacher and Flamingo realize that Penguin seems homesick, they plan together to fly the little flightless bird the long distance to his icy home. There, Penguin tries to convince the other young penguins of the marvels of flying. They are unconvinced—and take joy in a plunge and some underwater soaring. In the end, Penguin realizes that his particular passion for flying makes him different but that being different is just fine. Judge’s animated style invests Penguin, his classmates, and his penguin friends with endearing personalities. Penguin is attired in goggles and the flight suit that helps his more-accomplished flying friends to bear him aloft. Made of fishing lines with attendant lures bouncing from the ends, the apparatus gives him a jaunty look. Aerial scenes from Penguin’s viewpoint make his happiness at seeing the world from the sky persuasive, and the affection shown him by his flight school companions as well as by his fellow penguins is affirming. Endpapers offer yearbook-style portraits from Penguin’s flight school and vignettes from his scrapbook of his trip to Antarctica.

Lighthearted and lots of fun. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1441-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2018

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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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