For those familiar with Navajo traditions, Tahe’s knowledge and Nelson’s illustrations give enough of a Where’s Waldo breath...

FIRST LAUGH—WELCOME, BABY!

In a “skyscraper home in the big, busy city” and amid the high desert mesas of the “Navajo Nation,” family members attempt to make Baby laugh for the first time. 

Published posthumously with co-author Flood, Tahe’s (Diné) debut picture book begins with four family members “watching, tickling, smiling [at]” a sleeping baby, wondering when they will hear the first laugh. Though the text itself lacks cultural identification in the first few pages, debut illustrator Nelson’s (Diné) illustration supplies it, as two characters wear stylized hair buns on the nape to suggest a Navajo family. Before shifting to a rural setting on the Navajo Nation five pages later, the story continues in an urban environment with Grandmother tucking Baby in for a nap. For readers acquainted with Navajo culture, textual details such as “Pendleton blanket” and Nelson’s visual cues, including Grandmother’s turquoise pendant and a woven rug hanging on the wall, provide familiar touchstones. The remainder of the story sees all family members doing what they can to make Baby laugh. In Navajo tradition, families celebrate a baby’s first laugh. Though an expository endnote on this and other new-baby celebrations indicates, “The person who succeeds…has the honor of hosting the First Laugh Ceremony,” readers never fully feel that build of anticipation. Readers who note contrived moments of exposition and the romantic Native nostalgia reminiscent of Flood’s other works might feel duped by the reverse alphabetical authorial billing.

For those familiar with Navajo traditions, Tahe’s knowledge and Nelson’s illustrations give enough of a Where’s Waldo breath of cultural clues to balance the scale and justify the buy. (authors’ notes, illustrator’s note) (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-58089-794-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Charlesbridge

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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Little Blue’s fans will enjoy the animal sounds and counting opportunities, but it’s the sparkling lights on the truck’s own...

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S CHRISTMAS

The sturdy Little Blue Truck is back for his third adventure, this time delivering Christmas trees to his band of animal pals.

The truck is decked out for the season with a Christmas wreath that suggests a nose between headlights acting as eyeballs. Little Blue loads up with trees at Toad’s Trees, where five trees are marked with numbered tags. These five trees are counted and arithmetically manipulated in various ways throughout the rhyming story as they are dropped off one by one to Little Blue’s friends. The final tree is reserved for the truck’s own use at his garage home, where he is welcomed back by the tree salestoad in a neatly circular fashion. The last tree is already decorated, and Little Blue gets a surprise along with readers, as tiny lights embedded in the illustrations sparkle for a few seconds when the last page is turned. Though it’s a gimmick, it’s a pleasant surprise, and it fits with the retro atmosphere of the snowy country scenes. The short, rhyming text is accented with colored highlights, red for the animal sounds and bright green for the numerical words in the Christmas-tree countdown.

Little Blue’s fans will enjoy the animal sounds and counting opportunities, but it’s the sparkling lights on the truck’s own tree that will put a twinkle in a toddler’s eyes. (Picture book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-544-32041-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2014

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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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