De la Peña wonderfully expresses the impact of music on the soul, and Ramírez’s bright, expressive watercolor illustrations...

COCO

MIGUEL AND THE GRAND HARMONY

Miguel loves music and wants to be a musician more than anything, but his family prohibits him from pursuing his greatest love.

La Música, who narrates in the first person, appears at the strum of a guitar, in wedding bells, in a static-y radio, in the strains of a single violin, whirling through town, joining musicians through the plaza, rising and rising, until Miguel’s abuelita storms out of a shop and demands the musicians stop. “You’ll upset Mamá Coco!” They fumble and stumble away. La Música notices a young boy staring at the guitars in the hands of the musicians, longing for music just as she disappears. Each time she appears again, she looks for the boy and finds him, secretly watching musicians on a hidden TV in his play area, “playing” his broom, but just as she’s about to whisper her name in his ear, his family pulls him away. La Música arranges a careful series of events to help Miguel indulge in music, and the surprise ending lingers in the air like an overheard harmony. Readers don’t learn exactly why Miguel’s family has forbidden music, and though this would be puzzling in a stand-alone book, this book is a side story about the characters in Disney Pixar’s Coco. The tenderness and emotional intelligence of this story serves as a great incentive to learn more about Miguel.

De la Peña wonderfully expresses the impact of music on the soul, and Ramírez’s bright, expressive watercolor illustrations underscore the poetic prose style perfectly. ¡Que viva La Música! (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4847-8149-4

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Disney Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.

ROBOBABY

Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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