It’s got a werewolf, but it’s bloodless.

THERE'S SOMETHING ABOUT SAM

The birthday boy accidentally invites a werewolf to his sleepover.

At first, Max doesn’t want to invite new kid Sam to spend the night along with his other friends. “There’s something different about him,” he argues, but his mom counters that “that’s no reason to leave him out.” The third grader conveys his concerns to his other friends, but they seem to like the weirdo—apparently he “can run really fast,” says Michael (similarly initially left off Max’s guest list for nose-picking), and Elliott enthuses that he “always knows what’s cooking in the cafeteria way before lunchtime.” Sam himself seems hesitant, his hair standing on end as he says “I’m not sure I can…there’s a full moon that night.” But Sam decides to show up after all, and during the course of the sleepover he and his oddities start to grow on Max. Before long it’s revealed that the rare-meat–loving, hairy boy who’s inclined to bite is, in fact, a werewolf. The beastly reveal at the end is fun, but the journey there is bogged down by confusing transitions between scenes and awkward sentences. All the characters, including the protagonists, are awfully bland, and their somewhat interchangeable names make it hard to distinguish between them. The illustrations are unfortunately drab for such a lively concept. Max, his mother, and all his guests save Jeremy, who presents black, seem to be white.

It’s got a werewolf, but it’s bloodless. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-328-76680-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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As ephemeral as a valentine.

LOVE FROM THE CRAYONS

Daywalt and Jeffers’ wandering crayons explore love.

Each double-page spread offers readers a vision of one of the anthropomorphic crayons on the left along with the statement “Love is [color].” The word love is represented by a small heart in the appropriate color. Opposite, childlike crayon drawings explain how that color represents love. So, readers learn, “love is green. / Because love is helpful.” The accompanying crayon drawing depicts two alligators, one holding a recycling bin and the other tossing a plastic cup into it, offering readers two ways of understanding green. Some statements are thought-provoking: “Love is white. / Because sometimes love is hard to see,” reaches beyond the immediate image of a cat’s yellow eyes, pink nose, and black mouth and whiskers, its white face and body indistinguishable from the paper it’s drawn on, to prompt real questions. “Love is brown. / Because sometimes love stinks,” on the other hand, depicted by a brown bear standing next to a brown, squiggly turd, may provoke giggles but is fundamentally a cheap laugh. Some of the color assignments have a distinctly arbitrary feel: Why is purple associated with the imagination and pink with silliness? Fans of The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) hoping for more clever, metaliterary fun will be disappointed by this rather syrupy read.

As ephemeral as a valentine. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-9268-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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ALWAYS MORE LOVE

An interactive book works to get its titular message across to readers.

The narrator, an anthropomorphic cartoon heart with big eyes and stick arms and legs, is nothing if not exuberant in its attempts, clumsy and cloying as they may be. “I love you so much, / but there’s more in my heart. / How is that possible? / Well, where do I start? // Now move in close, and you will see / just how much you mean to me. // My love is huge—below, above. / As you can tell, there’s always more love!” The page following the instruction to move in shows a close-up of the top of the heart and its eyes, one stick arm pointing skyward, though despite the admonition “you can tell,” readers will glean nothing about love from this picture. À la Hervé Tullet, the book prompts readers to act, but the instructions can sometimes be confusing (see above) and are largely irrelevant to the following spread, supposedly triggered by the suggested actions. The heart, suddenly supplied with a painter’s palette and a beret and surrounded by blobs of color, instructs readers to “Shake the book to see what I can be.” The page turn reveals hearts of all different colors, one rainbow-striped, and then different shapes. Most troublingly, the heart, who is clearly meant to be a stand-in for loved ones, states, “I’m always here for you,” which for too many children is heartbreakingly not true.

Skip. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-1376-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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