A small heroine young readers will be happy to meet.

OONA

A young Black mermaid goes after a treasure but learns an important lesson along the way.

Oona is “sweet,” a little “salty,” and “brave and curious, like most treasure hunters.” Since she was a baby, she has gotten into adventures chasing treasure. But now she has Otto, her rescue otter pup, to come along for the ride. The one special treasure Oona can’t figure out how to obtain is a crown wedged tightly into a rift. She tries three times to get the crown unstuck—the artistic but vague language and pictures make it difficult to see exactly how—but when she is struck on the head by a ship’s plank, she gives up on the crown and on treasure hunting altogether. Oona pursues other interests. She naps. She draws in the sand. She hangs out with her “land friends”—two White children. But Oona is “missing her spark.” Then a seashell washes ashore, and she gets a new idea. Some ingenuity and invention and encouragement from friends become the keys to her success. Oona is an adorable protagonist, with her dark skin, enormous Afro, and striped, orange tail. With her ups and downs and her fundamental ebullience, she will easily win fans. While the details of her obstacles and problem-solving methods are not quite clear, the messages of persistence and of valuing the work of one’s own creation are strong and effective. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A small heroine young readers will be happy to meet. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-298224-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Katherine Tegen/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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Frightful and delightful: a comforting (to some, anyway) reminder that no one sleeps alone.

HOW I MET MY MONSTER

From the I Need My Monster series

In a tardy prequel to I Need My Monster (2009), candidates for that coveted spot under the bed audition.

As the distressingly unflappable young narrator looks on, one monster after another gives it a go—but even with three mouths, the best roar Genghis can manage is a puny “blurp!”, silly shadow puppets by shaggy Morgan elicit only a sneeze, and red Abigail’s attempt to startle by hiding in the fridge merely leaves her shivering and pathetic. Fortunately, there’s Gabe, who knows just how to turn big and hairy while lurking outside the bathroom and whose red-eyed stare and gross drooling sends the lad scrambling into bed to save his toes. “Kid, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” the toothy terror growls. Right he is, the lad concludes, snuggling down beneath the covers: “His snorts and ooze were perfect.” As usual, the white-presenting child’s big, bright, smiling face and the assortment of bumbling monsters rendered in oversaturated hues keep any actual scariness at tentacle’s length. Moreover, Monster, Inc. fans will delight in McWilliam’s painstaking details of fang, claw, hair, and scales.

Frightful and delightful: a comforting (to some, anyway) reminder that no one sleeps alone. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947277-09-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flashlight Press

Review Posted Online: June 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Not necessarily just for Halloween; readers can appreciate it any time.

SHE WANTED TO BE HAUNTED

Which cottage would stand out more in a real estate ad: cute or…haunted?

Clarissa the sentient cottage dislikes cuteness; as a pink, adorable haven for flowers and squirrels, she’s bored. She yearns to be scary and haunted like her father, a gloomy castle, and her mother, a smelly, vermin-infested witch’s hut. Dad gladly donates clouds but tells Clarissa it’s OK to be herself. The clouds are a bust because they bring rain, which brings forth…a rainbow, plants, and birds. Mom supplies a reeking bottle whose contents allegedly repel living things. Clarissa opens it but…attracts playful dogs. Finally abandoning her desire for a ghostly boarder, Clarissa invites her animals to remain. At the end, a particular creature’s unexpected arrival—and its most uncharacteristic behavior—reveal Clarissa’s true nature: horrible and cute. And she’s just fine with that. This rhyming story is certainly an unusual take on the finding-oneself trope. The bouncy verses mostly read and scan well, include sophisticated vocabulary, and provide Clarissa with a spunky, appealing personality. Different typefaces represent the voices of Clarissa, each parent, and the narrator. The cheerful, lively illustrations are very colorful but a trifle twee; Clarissa and her parents are differentiated through vivid pinks, dreary shades, and anthropomorphic faces. Nature blossoms via bright depictions of flowers, trees, animals, and birds.

Not necessarily just for Halloween; readers can appreciate it any time. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68119-791-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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