The game element doesn’t fly, but the art and interactive panels will attract toddler interest.

BUGS AND OTHER LITTLE CRITTERS

From the Matching Game Book series

Peek through sliding panels to discover all manner of insects and small creatures.

Though the “critters’’ might be little, this is one hefty board book! While the series of eight sliding panels clustered on the recto of each spread makes the book’s solid cardboard construction essential, they also make it unwieldy. The back-cover proclamation that this a “great take-along travel activity” notwithstanding, this is not a book caregivers will toss in a diaper bag. Opening the book, readers find a vibrant landscape on the verso of each spread, with five distinct habitats including watery pond, cheery meadow, and eye-catching nocturnal scene. Clearly labelled bugs and creatures mill about, with a satisfying mix of common (ladybugs) and uncommon (weevils) bug and animal species. Opposite the scene, eight smoothly moving panels hide four matching pairs. Though there are general suggestions of games to play with the panels written in itty-bitty text, the list of ideas (match the animals, locate them on the scene, hide the critters, and play I spy) feels half-hearted and repetitive at best. Better are the cartoon illustrations that make spiders, bats, and mosquitoes look as friendly as these creatures can, with large eyes and unobtrusive smiles. Intense, almost garish primary colors are forcefully cheerful.

The game element doesn’t fly, but the art and interactive panels will attract toddler interest. (Novelty/board book. 2-4)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-2-40802-465-9

Page Count: 12

Publisher: Twirl/Chronicle

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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ROCK-A-BYE BABY

A riff on the familiar lullaby depicts various animal parents, and then a human father, soothing their sleepy little ones.

An opening spread includes the traditional first verse of the titular lullaby, but instead of depicting a human baby in a treetop cradle, the accompanying illustration shows a large tree as habitat to the animals that are highlighted on subsequent pages. First the perspective zooms in on a painterly illustration rendered in acrylics of a mother squirrel cuddling her baby with text reading “Rock-a-bye Squirrel, / high in the tree, / in Mommy’s arms, / cozy as can be.” In this spread and others the cadence doesn’t quite fit with the familiar tune, and repeated verses featuring different animals—all opening with the “Rock-a-bye” line—don’t give way to the resolution. No winds blow, no boughs break, and the repetitive forced rhythm of the verse could cause stumbles when attempting a read-aloud. The final image of a human father and baby, whose skin tone and hair texture suggest that they are perhaps of South Asian descent, provides pleasing visual resolution in a book with art that outshines text.

Ho-hum. (Picture book. 2-4)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-8234-3753-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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There are better fish in the board-book sea.

SHARKS

From the Science for Toddlers series

Dramatic stock photos and die-cut tabs are the distinguishing features of this board book.

“Did you know that there are over 400 types of sharks?” is an intriguing opening, but readers primed to find out about those specific types may be surprised that the shark on the facing page is not identified. Instead, the picture of a shark above a school of fish gives a sense of its size. Smaller text explains that shark skeletons are made of cartilage, not bone. Layered die cuts that accentuate the nose and mouth of nine different sharks on the right-hand pages invite children to turn the pages quickly. White type printed against various contrasting colors on the left-hand pages offers tidbits of information but is unlikely to make young children pause long enough to be read the text. A picture of almost 40 sharks swimming together seems to contradict the accompanying explanation that many sharks are endangered. A final full-color spread speaks of sharks’ important role in maintaining ocean balance and includes a picture of a grandfatherly shark scientist. The back cover is devoted to information for adults. While intriguing and scientifically credible, the wordy text and seemingly arbitrary factoids are well beyond the attention spans of all but the most avid young fans of the species.

There are better fish in the board-book sea. (Board book. 3-4)

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4549-2128-8

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Sterling

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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