No skating on thin ice here—it’s a winner.


A girl in a hood glides into a new version of an old story.

Little Red (refreshingly, a winsome child of color) is one dazzling ice skater. Trouble is, her skates are so shabby and tight they might soon keep her from her weekly visits to Grandma’s. Then a pairs competition is announced, with new skates as the prize. New problem: everyone else seems to be partnered up already—Hansel with Gretel, the Dish with the Spoon, for example—or is unsuitable. Red dashes to Grandma’s for ideas. However, the Big Bad Wolf frightens her, and she skates away with lightning speed, nearly taking a nasty spill. Not to worry: Wolf rescues Red, compliments her prowess, and points out his own worn-out skates. Can you guess who’ll be Red’s partner? The day of the event, Wolf terrifies all the other competitors, but he’s redeemed when Red declares they’re a pair. Their spins and twirls leave everyone else in the, er, dust, and Mother Goose is on hand to award them their brand-new skates. Readers up on popular fairy tales and nursery rhymes will savor and chuckle at the sly visual and textual allusions to a host of well-known characters from these familiar childhood tales. The author also humorously works (and twerks) well-known phrases from these stories and rhymes into her text. The colorful retro illustrations are aptly cartoonlike, portraying characters, Red in particular, with large innocent eyes, befitting make-believe, updated protagonists.

No skating on thin ice here—it’s a winner. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-37006-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2015

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Aims high but falls flat.


Through 20 short poems, Maestro Mouse invites readers to meet a series of animals who have lessons to impart and a symphony to perform.

Brown, author of The DaVinci Code (2003) and other wildly popular titles for adults, here offers young listeners a poetry collection accompanied by music: a “symphony” performed, for readers equipped with an audio device and an internet connection, by the Zagreb Festival Orchestra. From the introduction of the conductor and the opening “Woodbird Welcome” to the closing “Cricket Lullaby,” the writer/composer uses poems made of three to eight rhyming couplets, each line with four strong beats, to introduce the animals who will be revealed in the final double gatefold as the players in an all-animal orchestra. Each poem also contains a lesson, reinforced by a short message (often on a banner or signpost). Thus, “When life trips them up a bit, / Cats just make the best of it” concludes the poem “Clumsy Kittens,” which is encapsulated by “Falling down is part of life. The best thing to do is get back on your feet!” The individual songs and poems may appeal to the intended audience, but collectively they don’t have enough variety to be read aloud straight through. Nor does the gathering of the orchestra provide a narrative arc. Batori’s cartoon illustrations are whimsically engaging, however. They include puzzles: hard-to-find letters that are said to form anagrams of instrument names and a bee who turns up somewhere in every scene.

Aims high but falls flat. (Complete composition not available for review.) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12384-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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A snort-inducing lesson of both bravery and preparation.


Four woodland animal friends put on a show.

Rabbit, Squirrel, and aptly named Other Squirrel (who has slightly redder fur than Squirrel) are a flurry of activity. They are going to put on a show. “A BIG show.…The BEST show!” It will have hats (tall ones), tickets (shiny ones), and a curtain (red—no, green). There are many decisions to be made. Bear, however, does not want to be part of it. He is too shy. He would prefer to be the note taker. Rabbit, Squirrel, and Other Squirrel fire off ideas, amending one another’s at furious speed, and Bear writes them all down. Scribbles appear in the white space surrounding the boulderlike ursine’s head. The ideas pile up; debut illustrator Todd deftly covers an entire page while Bear hunches in the middle, furiously writing. He hums a tune to keep himself calm. On the night of the performance, everything seems ready. Everything except…the show! They were so bogged down with the details, no one figured out what the show would be. The title gives away the ending from the very start, but Bear’s pluck is nevertheless laudable. Petty’s comedic quips are echoed in the frenzied art, with Bear looming large yet timid to ground it all. Limited, skilled use of panels helps to control the pacing.

A snort-inducing lesson of both bravery and preparation. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-3747-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Philomel

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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