Neck & Neck

illus. by Elise Parsley. 40p. Little, Brown. Jun. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780316466745.
PreS-Gr 2—Leopold the giraffe greatly enjoys being the center of attention at the zoo. So, when he spies competition in the form of a giraffe-head balloon being held by a small boy, Leopold does everything he can to capture the child's attention, including getting rid of the balloon. After much consideration and soul searching, Leopold assists the boy in acquiring a replacement balloon and earns the child's adoration. The story unfolds at a decent pace, maintaining slight suspense over what the characters will do next. The vocabulary used is simple and expressive, and even changes font for dramatic emphasis. This device is extremely effective for read-alouds as the text acts like performance cues. Early readers should still be able to understand the story through Parsley's dynamic expressions for each character, especially Leopold. Through a combination of Adobe and Corel, Parsley has created a series of distinguished illustrations that tell a story all on their own. In fact, there are certain turning points that are expressed solely through facial expression with no textual assistance. While both text and illustration could tell the story separately, together they create an energetic, relatable tale with multiple surprises that force readers to think about how they handle competition.
VERDICT An excellent story to teach toddlers how to do the right thing, even when they don't want to.
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