Probably fun for unicorn lovers.

NERDYCORN

Fern’s not like other unicorns.

She’d rather tinker with robots in her laboratory than “[splash] majestically” in waterfalls, and she prefers chemistry to glitter (as if chemistry can’t include glitter!). Where other unicorns are adorned with hearts, stars, and flowers, Fern sports dots, stripes, and a tool belt, though the distinction can be hard to discern in pastel-dominated art that makes everyone look charmingly twee. Of course, other unicorns make fun of Fern’s bespectacled nerdiness and exclude her from their Sparkle Dance Parties. So she decides never to help them again, in a fabulously grumpy double-page close-up: “The next time they need an engine rebuilt, turbo-sprocket installed, or hydrothermal capacitor welded, they are on their own.” The text seems to be going for as many technical-sounding words with as little meaning as possible—though the illustrations do properly depict several tools, including a truing stand, a multimeter, and calipers. As it turns out, the Sparkle Dance Parties depend on technology, and Fern’s the only one who can fix the “starlight bedazzler,” so the rude unicorns return to beg. At first Fern doesn’t bother, but she eventually concludes that “being smart, a good friend, and always willing to help others [is] far more important than holding on to a grudge.” Once she saves the dance, the other unicorns clamor to celebrate her skills; those hoping for a wise take on uniqueness should look elsewhere. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 62% of actual size.)

Probably fun for unicorn lovers. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6005-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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