With a toy sword and a wastebasket serving as a helmet, he marches (in his pajamas) boldly ahead, right into the path of "a...

THE WOODS

The night light is on and the bedtime story firmly in the young narrator's grasp, but stuffed bunny is nowhere to be found! There's only one thing to do: He has to go into the woods, which are conveniently right next to his bedroom.

With a toy sword and a wastebasket serving as a helmet, he marches (in his pajamas) boldly ahead, right into the path of "a big, scary brown bear!" Luckily, the bear is scared of the dark too, so the boy shares his night light. The duo sets off into the deeper woods, where they meet two scary giants. These guys in green are just bored, so the boy shares his bedtime story with them. Off this quartet ventures, and comes upon a pink three-headed, fire-breathing dragon... And so on. The procession comes to a big scary dark cave and, holding hands, summon the courage to enter. Inside is a big, hairy, scary monster—holding a tiny red bunny! Mystery solved; the boy invites everyone back to his room, where a final illustration shows him smiling and clutching stuffed versions of all his banished fears. The refrain—"we weren't afraid at all. Until…"—sets a comfortable pattern, and the fuzzy watercolors on thick creamy stock enhance the coziness of the tale.

Pub Date: June 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-8118-7547-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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Fun enough once through, but not much more.

THE SPAGHETTI-SLURPING SEWER SERPENT

A pint-sized sleuth tracks a purple underground monster.

When Mom scrapes the family's uneaten spaghetti into the sink, young Sammy Sanders hears strange slurping sounds. He becomes "77 percent convinced" that a spaghetti-slurping serpent lives in his sewer, and can't get to sleep. The next morning, Sammy and his little sister Sally investigate. There are meatballs and strands of limp spaghetti around the manhole cover! Sammy, whose round glasses make the whites of his eyes look as enormous as an owl's, can barely contain his excitement. After he removes the cover, Sally slips on some sauce and lands in the sewer, becoming a smelly sludgy mess. Sammy's left to investigate alone and comes up with a brilliant idea. Late that night, he sneaks out of the house with a salty snack for himself and a bowl of spaghetti for the serpent. But he falls asleep, and the huge serpent slithers up to the scrumptious spaghetti. Slurping sounds startle Sammy awake; he's face-to-face with the monster. There's just one thing to do: Share! Sammy' salty snack earns him a friend for life. And that night, he sleeps soundly, 100% sure that there's a serpent in his sewer. Zenz's illustrations, in Prismacolor colored pencil, look generic, but Ripes' yarn has pace and phonetic crackle.

Fun enough once through, but not much more.    (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-7614-6101-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Marshall Cavendish

Review Posted Online: Feb. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2012

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Mixed-race children certainly deserve mirror books, but they also deserve excellent text and illustrations. This one misses...

BEAUTIFUL, WONDERFUL, STRONG LITTLE ME!

This tan-skinned, freckle-faced narrator extols her own virtues while describing the challenges of being of mixed race.

Protagonist Lilly appears on the cover, and her voluminous curly, twirly hair fills the image. Throughout the rhyming narrative, accompanied by cartoonish digital illustrations, Lilly brags on her dark skin (that isn’t very), “frizzy, wild” hair, eyebrows, intellect, and more. Her five friends present black, Asian, white (one blonde, one redheaded), and brown (this last uses a wheelchair). This array smacks of tokenism, since the protagonist focuses only on self-promotion, leaving no room for the friends’ character development. Lilly describes how hurtful racial microaggressions can be by recalling questions others ask her like “What are you?” She remains resilient and says that even though her skin and hair make her different, “the way that I look / Is not all I’m about.” But she spends so much time talking about her appearance that this may be hard for readers to believe. The rhyming verse that conveys her self-celebration is often clumsy and forced, resulting in a poorly written, plotless story for which the internal illustrations fall far short of the quality of the cover image.

Mixed-race children certainly deserve mirror books, but they also deserve excellent text and illustrations. This one misses the mark on both counts. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63233-170-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Eifrig

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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