Impeccable integration of text and illustrations makes for a book readers can really sink their teeth into.

VAMPENGUIN

When the Dracula family visits the zoo, a surprising swap makes for a silly adventure.

This is a true picture book, with text and illustrations so seamlessly woven together that one won’t stand alone without the other. While at the penguin exhibit, the youngest member of the Dracula family discovers their resemblance to a similarly sized and colored emperor penguin. The two switch places, and readers are the only ones who catch this detail; the Draculas continue on their way through the zoo without ever noticing. This little inside joke succeeds thanks to Cummins’ striking and strategic palette. Using black and white with shades of aqua, mustard yellow, and pale pink, she makes it easy to see how the littlest Dracula camouflages with the penguins. Little readers will love pointing out all of the things the text intentionally omits, like the animals that notice the penguin touring around in the Draculas’ stroller. Cummins uses classic vampire tropes in a way that lands right with the preschool crowd: They frown when they should be smiling and hang upside down, for example. The Draculas all have truly paper-white skin; other zoo visitors and its employees are racially diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Impeccable integration of text and illustrations makes for a book readers can really sink their teeth into. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6698-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends.

GOOD NIGHT, LITTLE BLUE TRUCK

Is it a stormy-night scare or a bedtime book? Both!

Little Blue Truck and his good friend Toad are heading home when a storm lets loose. Before long, their familiar, now very nervous barnyard friends (Goat, Hen, Goose, Cow, Duck, and Pig) squeeze into the garage. Blue explains that “clouds bump and tumble in the sky, / but here inside we’re warm and dry, / and all the thirsty plants below / will get a drink to help them grow!” The friends begin to relax. “Duck said, loud as he could quack it, / ‘THUNDER’S JUST A NOISY RACKET!’ ” In the quiet after the storm, the barnyard friends are sleepy, but the garage is not their home. “ ‘Beep!’ said Blue. ‘Just hop inside. / All aboard for the bedtime ride!’ ” Young readers will settle down for their own bedtimes as Blue and Toad drop each friend at home and bid them a good night before returning to the garage and their own beds. “Blue gave one small sleepy ‘Beep.’ / Then Little Blue Truck fell fast asleep.” Joseph’s rich nighttime-blue illustrations (done “in the style of [series co-creator] Jill McElmurry”) highlight the power of the storm and capture the still serenity that follows. Little Blue Truck has been chugging along since 2008, but there seems to be plenty of gas left in the tank.

A sweet reminder that it’s easy to weather a storm with the company and kindness of friends. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-328-85213-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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