A middling chapter book for mermaid lovers who don’t want big conflicts.

MERMAIDS IN THE BACKYARD

A girl forges friendships with the mermaids in the ocean behind her house.

Lindy Michaels misses her best friend, her bedroom and everything else she left behind in Chicago when her parents moved their family to a South Carolina coastal island. Lindy’s no fan of the ocean or of her new neighbor, a stereotypically “[l]oud, messy, and annoying” boy named Matthew. Lindy isn’t willing to give Little Hermit’s Island a chance until a storm strands mermaid Sealily and her pet sea horse Finneus in a tide pool. Quick-thinking Lindy saves Sealily and Finneus and strikes up a friendship with them. When the weather clears, they entreat Lindy to come swim, offering up sea sponges that will enable her to breathe underwater, but frightened Lindy declines. Later, Matthew captures Finneus, and, knowing Sealily and her family must be distraught, Lindy trades away her most valued possession for the creature. While returning Finneus to the ocean, Lindy is pulled out to sea by a riptide. The grateful mermaids come to her aid in turn. They help her to the shore and break her of her fear of the water in a rather cheesy lesson that emphasizes giving things a chance. The illustrations rely on hair color and fins to help readers tell characters apart, but facial expressions are great and settings inviting.

A middling chapter book for mermaid lovers who don’t want big conflicts. (Fantasy. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 25, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-97637-6

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2013

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A close encounter of the best kind.

FIELD TRIP TO THE MOON

Left behind when the space bus departs, a child discovers that the moon isn’t as lifeless as it looks.

While the rest of the space-suited class follows the teacher like ducklings, one laggard carrying crayons and a sketchbook sits down to draw our home planet floating overhead, falls asleep, and wakes to see the bus zooming off. The bright yellow bus, the gaggle of playful field-trippers, and even the dull gray boulders strewn over the equally dull gray lunar surface have a rounded solidity suggestive of Plasticine models in Hare’s wordless but cinematic scenes…as do the rubbery, one-eyed, dull gray creatures (think: those stress-busting dolls with ears that pop out when squeezed) that emerge from the regolith. The mutual shock lasts but a moment before the lunarians eagerly grab the proffered crayons to brighten the bland gray setting with silly designs. The creatures dive into the dust when the bus swoops back down but pop up to exchange goodbye waves with the errant child, who turns out to be an olive-skinned kid with a mop of brown hair last seen drawing one of their new friends with the one crayon—gray, of course—left in the box. Body language is expressive enough in this debut outing to make a verbal narrative superfluous.

A close encounter of the best kind. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4253-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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An enigmatic, quirky representation of an active imagination in search of understanding and companionship.

MAGIC CANDIES

A child finds connection to the world all around in this Korean import.

The illustrations in this unusual picture book achieve a 3-D effect reminiscent of claymation. The opening scene shows an aerial view of a playground scattered with maple and gingko leaves; a tethered dog watches a child aiming at marbles. Accustomed to spending time alone and solitary play, Tong Tong’s fertile imagination infuses a bag of assorted spherical hard candies with powers that give voice to unlikely speakers, such as the living room sofa and Marbles the old dog, each speaking with Tong Tong to share a sentient perspective. The hard candies also channel the tough love hidden within Tong Tong’s father and Grandma’s bubbly, reassuring voice emanating from another realm. The candies’ magic reveals yet another dimension when Tong Tong is drawn outdoors to witness nature’s beauty as copious falling leaves bid farewell to the season. Through these uncanny exchanges, Tong Tong not only makes surprising discoveries, but also delves into complex emotions, celebrates a continuing relationship with Grandma, and takes courageous steps toward a tantalizing conclusion. The enhanced artwork establishes depth and perspective, featuring details some may find initially unsettling—along with the cryptic, open-ended narrative. That said, depictions of facial expressions are skillful and endearing, and the interplay between text and illustrations will cause readers to linger and ponder.

An enigmatic, quirky representation of an active imagination in search of understanding and companionship. (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2959-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Amazon Crossing Kids

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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