Interesting subject, but the story is less than satisfying.


Ava is finally allowed to open Aunt Jo’s mysterious trunk, and what’s inside is more magical than anything Ava could’ve imagined.

Ava, a young Black girl, likens her Aunt Jo’s house to a “fancy museum with curiosities, oddities, and doodads in every corner.” So when Aunt Jo finally gives Ava the key to the trunk she’s been eager to explore, she rushes to unlock it. Inside she finds what she thinks is an old blanket—more like a patchwork quilt. Ava learns that the blanket is made of fabric from gowns created by African American dressmaker and fashion designer Elizabeth Keckley. She and Aunt Jo are magically transported to the past, where they observe Keckley’s work and see the people she made dresses for, like first lady Mary Todd Lincoln. Together, they learn about two other African American modistes of a bygone era: fashion designer Ann Cole Lowe and milliner Mildred Blount. The bold, colorful illustrations are eye-catching and a highlight of the book. The information about the historical figures is presented in a way that feels disconnected from the rest of the story. The narrator’s identity is ambiguous, which is also confusing; the illustrations suggest that Aunt Jo is the narrator, yet the text lacks quotation marks. The book manages to provide interesting facts, but the absence of bibliographic references and backmatter is disappointing.

Interesting subject, but the story is less than satisfying. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5037-5928-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sunbird Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

This odd story is not for every reader, but those who enjoy it may find a friend for life


A determined mother embarks on a surreal adventure.

Kraegel’s format-defying tale is an unexpected story of love, determination, and parenting. Mother Shrew’s son, Hugo, is taken ill on the last day of January with a rare illness that makes him lethargic, with hot feet and a cold head. From “Dr. Ponteluma’s Book of Medical Inquiry and Physiological Know-How,” Mother Shrew learns that the only cure for this odd, unnamed illness is a spoonful of honey from the moon. Ferociously determined to cure Hugo, she sets out to save her son. In each new chapter, Mother Shrew faces a new obstacle or not-too-scary adversary as she braves the moon’s unusual environment—its verdant fields and lush forests make a stark contrast to the wintry landscape Mother Shrew has left behind—and its madcap inhabitants. Divided into seven heavily illustrated chapters, the story is one that will captivate contemplative and creative young readers. Caregivers may find this to be their next weeklong bedtime story and one that fanciful children will want to hear again and again. Kraegel’s ink-and-watercolor illustrations are reminiscent of Sergio Ruzzier’s but a bit grittier and with a darker color scheme. The surreal landscapes are appropriately unsettling, but a bright color palette keeps them from overwhelming readers.

This odd story is not for every reader, but those who enjoy it may find a friend for life . (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8169-2

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A gentle adventure that sets the stage for future quests.


From the The Kingdom of Wrenly series , Vol. 1

A lonely prince gains a friend for a quest to find a missing jewel.

Prince Lucas of Wrenly has everything a boy could possibly want—except a friend. His father has forbidden him to play with the village children for reasons of propriety. Adventure-seeking Lucas acquires peasant clothes to masquerade as a commoner and make friends, but he is caught out. His mother, the queen, persuades the king to allow him one friend: Clara, the daughter of her personal dressmaker. When the queen’s prized emerald pendant goes missing, Lucas and Clara set off to find it. They follow the jewel as it changes hands, interviewing each temporary owner. Their adventure cleverly introduces the series’ world and peoples, taking the children to the fairy island of Primlox, the trolls’ home of Burth, the wizard island of Hobsgrove and finally Mermaid’s Cove. By befriending the mermaids, Lucas and Clara finally recover the jewel. In thanks, the king gives Clara a horse of her own so that she may ride with Lucas on their future adventures. The third-person narration is generally unobtrusive, allowing the characters to take center stage. The charming, medieval-flavored illustrations set the fairy-tale scene and take up enough page space that new and reluctant readers won’t be overwhelmed by text.

 A gentle adventure that sets the stage for future quests. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9691-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet