An ambitious idea that slightly misses the mark.

IF YOU WERE NIGHT

A child explores a busy nocturnal world.

“If you were the night / and you saw the moon / tiptoe past your window,” begins this poetic story, “would you nestle under the covers? / Or would you stretch and rise / and step out, too?” The beige-skinned child in a gray, hooded jumpsuit observes a host of nighttime animals and joins in their activities; a raccoon rooting through trash, frogs singing, an owl hunting. The gorgeous, shadowy illustrations leap off the pages, three-dimensional paper constructions that manage to balance the darkness of night with the brightness of nature. The text attempts an ethereal style, reminiscent of Julie Fogliano’s If I Was the Sunshine (illustrated by Loren Long, 2009), but never quite makes the leap into the loveliness it’s clearly aiming for. The central conceit, personifying “you” as “night,” is promising but also stops short of making sense; night does not “skitter like a startled mouse,” “shrink from the cold,” or “hide behind a shadow,” and a sudden shift to first person, in the form of a quiet deer, never resolves. Despite these issues, the overall tone of the book and the calming, soothing arc, will help this find some success as a bedtime story. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 19% of actual size.)

An ambitious idea that slightly misses the mark. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0014-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.

MAMA BUILT A LITTLE NEST

Echoing the meter of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” Ward uses catchy original rhymes to describe the variety of nests birds create.

Each sweet stanza is complemented by a factual, engaging description of the nesting habits of each bird. Some of the notes are intriguing, such as the fact that the hummingbird uses flexible spider web to construct its cup-shaped nest so the nest will stretch as the chicks grow. An especially endearing nesting behavior is that of the emperor penguin, who, with unbelievable patience, incubates the egg between his tummy and his feet for up to 60 days. The author clearly feels a mission to impart her extensive knowledge of birds and bird behavior to the very young, and she’s found an appealing and attractive way to accomplish this. The simple rhymes on the left page of each spread, written from the young bird’s perspective, will appeal to younger children, and the notes on the right-hand page of each spread provide more complex factual information that will help parents answer further questions and satisfy the curiosity of older children. Jenkins’ accomplished collage illustrations of common bird species—woodpecker, hummingbird, cowbird, emperor penguin, eagle, owl, wren—as well as exotics, such as flamingoes and hornbills, are characteristically naturalistic and accurate in detail.

A good bet for the youngest bird-watchers.   (author’s note, further resources) (Informational picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-2116-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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Willems’ formula is still a winner.

THE PIGEON NEEDS A BATH!

From the Pigeon series

The pigeon is back, and he is filthy!

Readers haven’t seen the pigeon for a couple of years, not since The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? (2012), and apparently he hasn’t bathed in all that time. Per the usual routine, the bus driver (clad in shower cap and bathrobe) opens the story by asking readers to help convince the pigeon to take a bath. Though he’s covered in grime, the obstreperous bird predictably resists. He glares at readers and suggests that maybe they need baths. With the turn of the page, Willems anticipates readers’ energetic denials: The pigeon demands, “YEAH! When was the last time YOU had a bath?!” Another beat allows children to supply the answer. “Oh.” A trio of flies that find him repulsive (“P.U.!”) convinces him it’s time. One spread with 29 separate panels depicts the pigeon adjusting the bath (“Too wet!…Too cold.…Too reflective”) before the page turn reveals him jumping in with a spread-filling “SPLASH!” Readers accustomed to the pigeon formula will note that here the story breaks from its normal rhythms; instead of throwing a tantrum, the pigeon discovers what readers already know: “This is FUN!” All the elements are in place, including page backgrounds that modulate from dirty browns to fresh, clean colors and endpapers that bookend the story (including a very funny turnabout for the duckling, here a rubber bath toy).

Willems’ formula is still a winner. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9087-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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