An entertaining thought experiment, but the characters are a bit too on-the-nose for pure comfort.

WHAT IS INSIDE THIS BOX?

From the Monkey and Cake series

Anthropomorphic friends Monkey and Cake debate the mysterious contents of a cardboard box.

In a clear reference to Schrödinger, Monkey tells Cake that there’s a cat inside the box—but, supposedly, the cat disappears when the box is opened. Cake questions Monkey’s logic, wondering how they know there is a cat inside when the box is closed. Naturally, Monkey asks how Cake knows there is not a cat inside. Agreeing to disagree—and accepting the paradox—the pair leaves to get pie. The final pages set the matter straight once and for all. Taking a cue from the Elephant & Piggie series formula, the text consists entirely of dialogue. Speech bubbles are color-coded to easily match with characters (blue for Cake; yellow for Monkey). With a vocabulary of around 60 words, the dialogue offers plenty of repetition for emergent readers. Tallec’s expressive, dark-pencil–and-acrylic illustrations are set against a white background. That the characters are a brown monkey with an upturned cap and a yellow-and-pink slice of cake with a coating of brown frosting as hair opens the relationship up to racial analysis. In one spread, a zoomed-in portrait of Cake even looks like a white human. The simultaneously publishing This Is MY Fort! recycles the formula into a lesson on the cruelty of exclusion (Cake makes a fort in which no monkeys are allowed). In both texts, endpapers offer open-ended questions to contextualize the story.

An entertaining thought experiment, but the characters are a bit too on-the-nose for pure comfort. (Early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-14386-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE SCHOOLS

From the My Purple World series

A color-themed vision of what school should be like.

In what amounts to a rehash of The World Needs More Purple People (2020), Bell and Hart address adult as well as young readers to explain what “curious and kind you” can do to make school, or for that matter the universe, a better place. Again culminating in the vague but familiar “JUST. BE. YOU!” the program remains much the same—including asking questions both “universe-sized” (“Could you make a burrito larger than a garbage truck?”) and “smaller, people-sized” (i.e., personal), working hard to learn and make things, offering praise and encouragement, speaking up and out, laughing together, and listening to others. In the illustrations, light-skinned, blond-haired narrator Penny poses amid a busy, open-mouthed, diverse cast that includes a child wearing a hijab and one who uses a wheelchair. Wiseman opts to show fewer grown-ups here, but the children are the same as in the earlier book, and a scene showing two figures blowing chocolate milk out of their noses essentially recycles a visual joke from the previous outing. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-43490-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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