Can you love another update? We think you will, we think you will, we think you will….

THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD

90TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Thinking it can for its 90th year, an old friend receives a shiny new update.

Fifteen years after Loren Long’s 75th-anniversary interpretation, Caldecott winner Santat tries his hand at this work of classic children’s literature. Once more a train filled with toys and goodies for all those “good little boys and girls on the other side of the mountain” can only be saved by the smallest, most determined engine of them all. As no part of the text has been changed (the “jackknives” for children remain intact in the train’s inventory), Santat’s challenge is to bring the engine into the 21st century visually. Now the “funny little clown” is actually small instead of adult-sized, and one of the dolls depicted has brown skin and straight, dark hair (the other is white with Shirley Temple ringlets). In Santat’s version, when the Little Blue Engine pulls away from the engine that broke down, one of the toys waves goodbye, and it looks on in relief. Some scenes directly reference the earlier editions, such as a shot of the Little Blue Engine pulling over a bridge as animals run alongside. Kids will enjoy small details, like the toy plane that appears in almost every spread. Adults will enjoy the generous format and Santat’s lovingly rendered landscapes. Notes from Dolly Parton and Santat bookend the story.

Can you love another update? We think you will, we think you will, we think you will…. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-09439-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Adults will do better skipping the book and talking with their children.

AN ABC OF EQUALITY

Social-equity themes are presented to children in ABC format.

Terms related to intersectional inequality, such as “class,” “gender,” “privilege,” “oppression,” “race,” and “sex,” as well as other topics important to social justice such as “feminism,” “human being,” “immigration,” “justice,” “kindness,” “multicultural,” “transgender,” “understanding,” and “value” are named and explained. There are 26 in all, one for each letter of the alphabet. Colorful two-page spreads with kid-friendly illustrations present each term. First the term is described: “Belief is when you are confident something exists even if you can’t see it. Lots of different beliefs fill the world, and no single belief is right for everyone.” On the facing page it concludes: “B is for BELIEF / Everyone has different beliefs.” It is hard to see who the intended audience for this little board book is. Babies and toddlers are busy learning the names for their body parts, familiar objects around them, and perhaps some basic feelings like happy, hungry, and sad; slightly older preschoolers will probably be bewildered by explanations such as: “A value is an expression of how to live a belief. A value can serve as a guide for how you behave around other human beings. / V is for VALUE / Live your beliefs out loud.”

Adults will do better skipping the book and talking with their children. (Board book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-78603-742-8

Page Count: 52

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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A timely message in the wrong format.

TOGETHER

This book delivers a message on the power of collective action.

As the book opens, a child looks at a lone star shining in the sky: “One star shines as distant light.” After the turn of the page, the child now sees what looks like the Milky Way: “And when stars shine together, they make our galaxy.” The book goes on to give a number of similar examples to reinforce the message of the power that comes from working together, ending with: “One of us can speak up for justice / And when we speak up together we create a world of possibility.” In the current atmosphere of strife and discord that divides our country, this is certainly a welcome message. Perhaps, though, the board-book set is not the right audience. As a picture book aimed at a slightly older group with an information page at the end explaining some of the illustrations, it might work well. As it is, however, some of the visual references will merely puzzle a toddler—and some adults. For example, a group of angry-looking people raising their fists and singing together may not look like “harmony” to a toddler—unless they know about the New Zealand haka. There is an unexplained frog motif that runs through the book that may also mystify readers. Nagara’s brilliant illustrations portray people of many ethnic backgrounds.

A timely message in the wrong format. (Board book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64421-084-0

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Triangle Square Books for Young Readers

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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