Overall, a mismatch of story and format.

WHEN YOUR LLAMA NEEDS A HAIRCUT

From the When Your… series

It’s picture day, and everyone wants to look their best—including a very hairy llama.

To prepare for picture day, an unnamed black boy must fix his pet llama’s unruly hair. It turns out that making a llama photoworthy is no easy endeavor: after catching his llama and convincing him to get a haircut, the little boy must wash and detangle his pet’s hair. Next, the pair must choose a hairstyle. After vacillating among choices ranging from a bowl cut to a mohawk, they settle on a “simple trim from nose to tail.” When the llama still won’t cooperate, the boy decides to take a different approach, leading to a twist ending. It is refreshing to see a black protagonist in a comedic story, and the combination of second-person narration and cartoonish illustrations proves witty and engaging. Adults will appreciate Hill’s (When Your Lion Needs a Bath, 2017) numerous winks to parents, who may recognize parallels between cutting a llama’s hair and caring for a toddler. However, the narrative is too advanced for the typical board-book–age reader. The conflict involves picture day, an occasion that will be unfamiliar to children who do not yet attend school. The ending falls flat, partly because it involves an abstract leap too complex for very young readers.

Overall, a mismatch of story and format. (Board book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Jan. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0564-6

Page Count: 26

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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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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Though Penguin doesn’t discover any of his own true talents, young listeners will probably empathize with wanting something...

FLIGHT SCHOOL

From the Flight School series

A small round penguin with lofty aspirations finds success of a sort in a sweet, if slight, appreciation of the resourcefulness of teachers.

The sign near a cluster of wooden pilings in the middle of the water reads “FLIGHT SCHOOL / WE TEACH BIRDS TO FLY.” “I was hatched to fly,” announces Penguin upon his arrival from the South Pole. “I have the soul of an eagle,” he assures the gently dubious Teacher. “Penguin and the other birdies practiced for weeks,” but he succeeds only in plunging into the ocean—not terribly gracefully. He is ready to give up when a solution devised by Teacher and Flamingo has Penguin flying, if only for a few moments, and his happiness at this one-time achievement is lasting. Judge’s edge-to-edge watercolor-and-pencil art is lively and amusing. Her various sea and shore birds—gulls, a pelican, a heron and a small owl among them—and their fledglings are just a little scruffy, and they are exaggeratedly, expressively funny in their anthropomorphic roles as teachers and students. Background shades of warm yellow, sea blue and green, and brown sand let the friendly, silly faces and bodies of the birds take center stage.

Though Penguin doesn’t discover any of his own true talents, young listeners will probably empathize with wanting something so far out of reach. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: April 15, 2014

ISBN: 978-14424-8177-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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