Something of a mess indeed.

A GIANT MESS

From the I Like To Read Comics series

A child doesn’t want to clean up after playtime, only to discover a mess that’s much bigger.

Molly, a White child cued as a girl with pigtails and a bright orange dress, is having fun playing with an abundance of toys. When Mom tells her to clean up the “giant mess,” Molly starts to throw a tantrum—only to be interrupted by a literal giant. Bright green and bushy-eyebrowed, giant toddler Jack (cued as a boy with oversized sweater and red pants) runs through Molly’s neighborhood, using houses, infrastructure, animals, and people as playthings. When Jack’s parents insist he clean up his “toys,” Jack begins to throw a tantrum, and Molly decides to pass down the lesson she’s been taught: You should clean up the mess you make. Unfortunately, Jack leaves the job unfinished, and Molly finds her room even messier than before. The upside-down second story of the house puts a whole new spin on Mom’s request that Molly “pick up your room.” Simple sentences and short sight words are apt for a new reader. Full of big facial expressions, sweeping movement, and destructive chaos, the dynamic illustrations carry the book. While some may find the double-entendre concept and resulting chaos humorous, the comedy is flattened by giant disparities of gender and power, as a girl and her mother are left to clean up after a (giant) boy who treats them like objects.

Something of a mess indeed. (Graphic early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4639-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text.

BO'S MAGICAL NEW FRIEND

From the Unicorn Diaries series , Vol. 1

A unicorn learns a friendship lesson in this chapter-book series opener.

Unicorn Bo has friends but longs for a “bestie.” Luckily, a new unicorn pops into existence (literally: Unicorns appear on especially starry nights) and joins Bo at the Sparklegrove School for Unicorns, where they study things like unicorn magic. Each unicorn has a special power; Bo’s is granting wishes. Not knowing what his own might be distresses new unicorn Sunny. When the week’s assignment is to earn a patch by using their unicorn powers to help someone, Bo hopes Sunny will wish to know Bo's power (enabling both unicorns to complete the task, and besides, Bo enjoys Sunny’s company and wants to help him). But when the words come out wrong, Sunny thinks Bo was feigning friendship to get to grant a wish and earn a patch, setting up a fairly sophisticated conflict. Bo makes things up to Sunny, and then—with the unicorns friends again and no longer trying to force their powers—arising circumstances enable them to earn their patches. The cheerful illustrations feature a sherbet palette, using patterns for texture; on busy pages with background colors similar to the characters’ color schemes, this combines with the absence of outlines to make discerning some individual characters a challenge. The format, familiar to readers of Elliott’s Owl Diaries series, uses large print and speech bubbles to keep pages to a manageable amount of text.

A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-32332-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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