A heartfelt if rocky read-aloud.


The titular bench, in several iterations, becomes a touchstone fixture in the lives of several father-and-son pairings.

The text is related in the voice of a loving partner who is mostly off page as they address the father figure who appears in every picture along with his son. In all but the first and last pictures, which depict a White, redhaired, bearded man and his offspring, each father-son pairing is different, as is the bench and its location. Some benches are clearly in public places (a park, a bus stop), while others are in what appear to be residences or backyards; most are ambiguously situated, allowing readers to reach their own conclusions as to where each father-son pair is. What is constant is the love between them, whether the tutu-clad father and his similarly attired son, both with light brown skin, using a bench to stretch; the Black father and babe enjoying a sun-dappled nap; or the Sikh father cheering his son’s soccer exploits. While Robinson’s painterly illustrations are characteristically beautiful, the text from Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, is less accomplished. Written in abcb rhyming quatrains, it often struggles for rhyme and scansion, sometimes to tortuous effect: “You feel happiness, sorrow / One day be heartbroken. / You’ll tell him ‘I love you’ / Those words always spoken.”

A heartfelt if rocky read-aloud. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-43451-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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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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