Disappointing and preachy, with illustrations that leave little to readers’ imaginations.

THE UNICORN CAME TO DINNER

Mythical beast versus pragmatic parents—with somewhat expected results.

A unicorn has arrived for dinner, having apparently eaten Mom and Dad’s daughter, Elizabeth (not for the first time). Rude, ungainly, and temperamental, the unicorn tracks prints around the house and exhibits appalling table manners. Dad and Mom, initially irritated, eventually tame this wild beast and even tuck it into bed with a teddy bear. Parents may smile in recognition at the rather obvious ending of this preachy tale. Kids might recognize themselves in this enormous creature that can’t control its temper and feels generally misunderstood; however, the final metamorphosis has little explanation or catalyst, and the story’s perspective seems very parent-oriented. There’s no explanation why the unicorn is so upset; rather, the parents must figure out how to handle this situation as calmly and positively as possible. That seems unhelpful for both children and caregivers who need emotional guidance. Cornwall’s illustrations, done in muted earth tones save for the pink unicorn, do nothing to enliven the flat story, a stark contrast to the vibrancy and emotional range evident in her debut, Jabari Jumps (2017). Furthermore, she uses paper-bag skin tones for this family of color, even giving Mom nearly the same skin tone as that of the woodwork.

Disappointing and preachy, with illustrations that leave little to readers’ imaginations. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-31040-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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Just the thing to get uncertain youngsters jazzed for a first day—at school or anywhere.

THE QUEEN OF KINDERGARTEN

Barnes and Brantley-Newton team up for a follow-up to The King of Kindergarten (2019).

From the very first page, it’s clear that young MJ Malone is ready to face the world—and school. Once Mom bestows her with a glittery tiara and dubs her the queen of kindergarten, MJ is determined to fulfill her duties—brighten up every room she enters, treat others with kindness, and offer a helping hand. Barnes infuses each page with humor and a sense of grace as the immensely likable MJ makes the most of her first day. Barnes’ prose is entertaining and heartwarming, while Brantley-Newton’s vivid and playful artwork will be easily recognizable for anyone who’s seen her work (Grandma’s Purse, 2018; Becoming Vanessa, 2021). The illustrator adds verve to the bold young heroine’s character—from the colorful barrettes to the textured appearance of her adorable denim jumper, the girl has style and substance. MJ Malone embodies the can-do spirit every parent hopes to spark in their own children, though even shy kindergarteners will gladly find a friend in her. MJ and her family are Black; her classroom is diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Just the thing to get uncertain youngsters jazzed for a first day—at school or anywhere. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: May 24, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-11142-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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Uncomplicated and worthwhile for any age.

THE THANKFUL BOOK

Parr focuses his simplistic childlike art and declarative sentences on gratitude for the pleasures and wonders of a child’s everyday life.

Using images of both kids and animals, each colorful scene in bold primary colors declaims a reason to be thankful. “I am thankful for my hair because it makes me unique” shows a yellow-faced child with a wild purple coiffure, indicating self-esteem. An elephant with large pink ears happily exclaims, “I am thankful for my ears because they let me hear words like ‘I love you.’ ” Humor is interjected with, “I am thankful for underwear because I like to wear it on my head.” (Parents will hope that it is clean, but potty-humor–loving children probably won’t care.) Children are encouraged to be thankful for feet, music, school, vacations and the library, “because it is filled with endless adventures,” among other things. The book’s cheery, upbeat message is clearly meant to inspire optimistic gratitude; Parr exhorts children to “remember some [things to be thankful for] every day.”

Uncomplicated and worthwhile for any age. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-18101-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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