A fable without staying power.



A phobic rabbit faces his fears.

In the first sentence, readers learn that “there once was a chap called Ditter von Dapp / who lived deep inside of a cave.” The second sentence explains that “he couldn’t stand sunlight—‘It’s too blinding and bright!’— / so always he stayed in the shade.” The rest of the lesson expands on this central conceit: The monocled, tuxedoed white rabbit frets that the light “could blind me, unwind me, it could drive me insane! / Or illuminate things I don’t like.” The blue-toned spreads show all the predicaments his phobia lands him in. When a Buddhist-monk mouse runs away with his left shoe, Ditter von Dapp must face the fact that “looking is tough. / When you’re looking in darkness—all you see is dark stuff.” So he capitulates, illuminates his home, and discovers that good lighting, shown in color-filled illustrations, is an aesthetic delight. As a metaphor, this is overwrought for adults and impenetrable for kids, and the attempt at rollicking rhyme is consistently uneven and strained; many lines incorporate ridiculous expostulations for the sake of rhyme and meter. For some reason the saffron-robed mouse “had not taken his shoe simply for play” but rather “to show Von Dapp the way.” She even holds her hands in a little namaste to end the lesson. Ultimately Ditter’s such a lackluster hero that the question of why overwhelms the story.

A fable without staying power. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-61180-814-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Bala Kids/Shambhala

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...


Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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Just the thing to get uncertain youngsters jazzed for a first day—at school or anywhere.


Barnes and Brantley-Newton team up for a follow-up to The King of Kindergarten (2019).

From the very first page, it’s clear that young MJ Malone is ready to face the world—and school. Once Mom bestows her with a glittery tiara and dubs her the queen of kindergarten, MJ is determined to fulfill her duties—brighten up every room she enters, treat others with kindness, and offer a helping hand. Barnes infuses each page with humor and a sense of grace as the immensely likable MJ makes the most of her first day. Barnes’ prose is entertaining and heartwarming, while Brantley-Newton’s vivid and playful artwork will be easily recognizable for anyone who’s seen her work (Grandma’s Purse, 2018; Becoming Vanessa, 2021). The illustrator adds verve to the bold young heroine’s character—from the colorful barrettes to the textured appearance of her adorable denim jumper, the girl has style and substance. MJ Malone embodies the can-do spirit every parent hopes to spark in their own children, though even shy kindergarteners will gladly find a friend in her. MJ and her family are Black; her classroom is diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Just the thing to get uncertain youngsters jazzed for a first day—at school or anywhere. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: May 24, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-11142-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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