Booklist starred (July 2012 (Vol. 108, No. 21))
Preschool-Grade 2. Vernon, a very thoughtful toad, is out foraging “for interesting things” when he finds something much better than an old baseball or yo-yo: he finds Bird. Bird is blue, with button eyes and striped wooden legs, and he is the strong, silent type. Vernon introduces Bird to his friends, Skunk and Porcupine, and tries very hard to make Bird feel at home in the river and the forest, but Bird never utters a word. After Porcupine suggests that perhaps he is homesick, Vernon and Bird hop in a teacup boat, with a spoon for an oar, and set off down the river in search of Bird’s home sweet home. The ending is the perfect mix of “oh, of course!” and total surprise (although observant children will get a hint about the outcome on the copyright page). Stead (Jonathan and the Big Blue Boat, 2011) uses loose lines and thick, messy strokes to create illustrations that resemble a child’s coloring book page in the best possible way. The style is fresh and exciting, and the pages brim with handclap-worthy details that kids will love, including Vernon’s bottle-cap hat. This sensitively told story is a wonderful ode to friendship, selflessness, and the joys of home. Everyone should be so lucky to know a Vernon.