While thar be precious little piracy visible in this, its feminist themes are strong.

HOW TO BE A PIRATE

Feminism for the piratically inclined.

Fitzgerald and Barrager give the old chestnut of a girl who’s turned away from a boys’ fort due to her gender alone a piratical twist. After CeCe’s initial disappointment, she vows to get advice from the only true pirate she knows: her grandfather. Game to give his granddaughter a 101 in how to be the best possible scurvy dog, he uses each of his tattoos to extol a virtue such as bravery or speed. As in Alison McGhee and Eliza Wheeler’s Tell Me a Tattoo Story (2016), body art becomes the inspiration for any number of adventures and aphorisms, ending with the most important lesson: love. Readers may note that few of these flights of fancy have much to do with pirates specifically. Nevertheless, an emboldened CeCe returns to the boys and successfully owns her piratude. The ending is more than a bit optimistic, as CeCe gains admission simply by redeclaring intentions with a smidgen more chutzpah. Would that misogyny always rolled over so easily. Happily, Fitzgerald’s tale is accompanied by the rollicking vibrancy of Barrager’s art. Reality pales (literally) in the face of the imagination, with a clever tonal shift to a brighter, more saturated palette indicating CeCe’s determination. CeCe and Grandpa both present white; the boys who initially snub her display a range of skin colors and hair textures.

While thar be precious little piracy visible in this, its feminist themes are strong. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68119-778-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Engines won’t be the only thing roaring their approval when this book hits storytime.

ELBOW GREASE VS. MOTOZILLA

Who needs sanity when you’ve got family?

The title character of Elbow Grease (2018) and his family of Demolition Derby trucks return to face an all-new competitor. Once again, ’Bo is feeling inadequate next to his fan-favorite brothers. Despite Mel the Mechanic’s encouragement—he’s “the best at getting better”—he wants to be noticed. But instead, he notices someone unavoidable. Motozilla, the monster machine that turns trucks “into crunch sandwiches,” is currently undefeated. Trouble is, you’d need a truck with an array of skills to take him down. Thinking fast, ’Bo makes the wild and somewhat improbable suggestion that he and his brothers join together to form a single supertruck. Will it be enough to take down this bully? Quips, jests, and teamwork are the name of the game as pro wrestler Cena improves on his writing in this second outing, which demonstrates that individual glory falls in the face of concentrated cooperation. Rollicking, radical art portrays the battle in all its gritty glory, mud and twisted metal galore. Human crowds show a diverse range of races and genders, and the trucks’ keeper, Mel, has light-brown skin and wears glasses.

Engines won’t be the only thing roaring their approval when this book hits storytime. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-7353-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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WITH ALL MY HEART

A caregiving bear shares with its cub how love has defined their relationship from the first moment and through the years as the cub has grown.

With rhymes and a steady rhythm that are less singsong-y than similar books, Stansbie seems to have hit a sweet spot for this offering on the I-love-you-always shelf. Readers follow the adult and child as they share special moments together—a sunset, a splash in a pond, climbing a tree, a snuggle—and the adult tells the child that the love it feels has only grown. Stansbie also takes care not to put promises in the adult bear’s mouth that can’t be delivered, acknowledging that physical proximity is not always possible: “Wherever you are, / even when we’re apart… // I’ll love you forever / with all of my heart.” The large trim size helps the sweet illustrations shine; their emphasis is on the close relationship between parent and child. Shaped peekaboo windows offer glimpses of preceding and succeeding pages, images and text carefully placed to work whatever the context. While the die cuts on the interior pages will not hold up to rough handling, they do add whimsy and delight to the book as a whole: “And now that you’re bigger, / you make my heart sing. / My / beautiful / wonderful / magical / thing.” Those last three adjectives are positioned in leaf-shaped cutouts, the turn of the page revealing the roly-poly cub in a pile of leaves, three formed by the die-cuts. Opposite, three vignettes show the cub appreciating the “beautiful,” the “wonderful,” and the “magical.”

Sweet. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-68412-910-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Silver Dolphin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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