FRANZ-FERDINAND THE DANCING WALRUS

An old, movement-averse walrus disrupts the status quo when he decides to learn ballet.

From the creator of The Rainbow Fish comes an underwhelming parable about the value of hard work in the face of closed-mindedness and tradition, set against a backdrop of ongoing environmental crises. Franz-Ferdinand, who at 42 has already surpassed the average walrus life span, lives on the east coast of Greenland, where he surreptitiously observes the rehearsals of Madame Flamenco’s troupe of flamingo ballet dancers (they have been displaced by climate change). After practicing in secret, the head bull walrus requests an audition. No one expects Franz-Ferdinand to succeed at ballet, a fact underscored by a questionable subplot in which he, in need of a “suitable piece of clothing” that isn’t “too feminine,” constructs a tutu out of literal ocean trash that fits his “big fat tummy.” Yet, despite this equation of his large body with garbage, his performance is so impressive and his speech so surprisingly “cultured” that Madame Flamenco falls “madly in love” with her new student, leading to the creation of a walrus ballet company. While the stylized illustrations successfully convey the anthropomorphized animals’ emotions via expressive faces and body language, they omit any visual evidence of walruses’ practicing (as opposed to performing) ballet, which contradicts the book’s heavy-handed message of perseverance. The lengthy text impedes the narrative, while its playful tone downplays human complicity in climate change and ocean trash and elides any context or resources for the environmental and social issues it vaguely references.

Disappointingly shallow. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4469-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Never underestimate the feats an animal will brave in order to be reunited with their loved ones.

TRUMAN

A tiny tortoise discovers just how brave he is when his girl unexpectedly takes a bus headed away from home.

Truman, like his girl, Sarah, is quiet, “peaceful and pensive,” unlike the busy, noisy city outside their building’s window. In just the first few spreads, Reidy and Cummins manage to capture the close relationship between the girl and her pet, so it’s understandable that Truman should worry when he adds up the day’s mysterious clues: a big backpack, a large banana, a bow in Sarah’s hair, extra green beans in Truman’s dish, and, especially, Sarah boarding the No. 11 bus. He’s so worried that he decides to go after her, a daunting feat for a tortoise the size of a small doughnut. Cummins’ gouache, brush marker, charcoal, colored pencil, and digital illustrations marvelously convey both the big picture of Truman’s navigation of the house and his tortoise’s-eye view of things. And the ending, when Sarah arrives home in time to scoop him up before he slips under the front door, stuttering her amazement at his brave feats, is just right. Sarah and her mother have pale skin and straight, black hair; other city dwellers are diverse. Peaceful and pensive like Truman himself, this book charms; there’s just something uplifting and wonderful about the whole package.

Never underestimate the feats an animal will brave in order to be reunited with their loved ones. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1664-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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Sweet, reassuring fun—and a story to fully embrace.

SLUG IN LOVE

A slug longs for a hug and finds it unexpectedly.

Doug the slug would really like a hug and plods on, seeking affection. But a caterpillar, bug, spider, and worm want no part of hugging a slug. They are just not feeling it (might they feel sluggish?), voicing their disdain in no uncertain terms with expressions like, “Grimy, slippy!” and “Squelchy, slimy!” What’s a slug to do? Undeterred, Doug keeps trying. He meets Gail, a snail with crimson lipstick and hip, red glasses; she happens to be as grimy and squelchy as he is, so he figures she is the hugger of his dreams. The two embark upon a madcap romantic courtship. Alas, Gail also draws the (slimy) line at hugging Doug. Finally, mournful Doug meets the best hugger and the true love of his life, proving there’s someone for everyone. This charmer will have readers rooting for Doug (and perhaps even wanting to hug him). Expressed in simple, jaunty verses that read and scan smoothly, the brief tale revolves around words that mainly rhyme with Doug and slug. Given that the story stretches vocabulary so well with regard to rhyming words, children can be challenged after a read-aloud session to offer up words that rhyme with slug and snail. The colorful and humorous illustrations are lively and cheerful; googly-eyed Doug is, like the other characters, entertaining and expressive. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sweet, reassuring fun—and a story to fully embrace. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-66590-046-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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