Readers may wish that Talk Like a Pirate Day lasted all year long.

PIRATE STEW

This book could serve as a recruiting drive for pirates, mostly because of the hair.

Pirate hair, in Riddell’s illustrations, is glorious. It’s powder blue, or it’s peaked like twin mountains or forms crests like waves in the ocean. More important, the pirates have joyous, irresistible smiles. But the two children who find themselves babysat by these benign buccaneers are still suspicious. The pirates in this picture book don’t follow the rules of ordinary seagoers. When they make their titular stew, the ingredients include “a Jolly Roger” and “half a sack of gold doubloons.” If you eat it, they say, “You’ll become a pirate too!” The artwork also blithely veers from the text. Gaiman says that the chief pirate has gray hair, but in Riddell’s delicately lined cartoons his beard is a bright, cheerful blue, proving that no one should ever trust pirates or artists or children’s-book authors. But it’s hard to be afraid of buccaneers who shout things like “Toodle-pip!” The crew is diverse enough—in wardrobe and in racial presentation—that almost any reader can feel welcome. The children have brown skin and come from an interracial family, with a White mother and a Black father. The rhythm of the rhyming text is instantly catchy, though it’s so dense that a word and its rhyme occasionally become separated when the layout places them on different pages. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.8-by-15-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Readers may wish that Talk Like a Pirate Day lasted all year long. (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-293457-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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A delightful new series gets off to a charming start.

CORNBREAD & POPPY

From the Cornbread and Poppy series , Vol. 1

Two mouse best friends approach life differently.

Cornbread’s an organized, detail-oriented planner; he gathered his winter food supplies and stocked his shelves in advance: No risk taker, he. Not so pal Poppy. She’s always busy biking, hiking, and having adventures. “Nah, I’ll do it later,” is her motto. Unfortunately, she realizes too late that “later” has arrived and she’s got nothing put by. After searching, she and Cornbread discover there’s no food left anywhere. The only solution, Poppy concludes, is to forage on Holler Mountain, a dreaded place where no one dares venture. Cornbread doesn’t want Poppy to make the fearsome trek alone, so they bravely climb together. The terrified pair have some very unexpected encounters, including with a long-presumed-gone friend, who happens to possess a vast supply of food, which she generously shares with Poppy. When they arrive home, Cornbread’s perspectives on fun have changed! This cute, easy chapter book is a gently humorous tale about steadfast friends with opposite personalities. The bond between the murine buddies is sweet and convincing, and children will enjoy the friends’ lively exploits. Cordell’s trademark loose artwork, rendered in pen and ink with watercolor, is energetic and wonderfully captures gray Cornbread’s and tan Poppy’s activities, easy camaraderie, and expressive faces. Many illustrations appear as panels and insets. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A delightful new series gets off to a charming start. (Early chapter book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-7595-5487-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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