A tiny knight’s tale that’s hard not to like.

ATTACK OF THE UNDERWEAR DRAGON

From the Underwear Dragon series

When the dreaded Underwear Dragon attacks the kingdom, only young Cole can rise to the fire-breathing challenge.

Hoping to join his favorite knight, Sir Percival, as his assistant, Cole writes a heartfelt letter to the famed warrior. Cole’s letter moves Sir Percival to tears (“That’s right. Knights cry”), and Cole gets his wish. Soon enough, the assistant knight is learning to ride horses, swing swords, and calm Sir Percival’s fears of the Underwear Dragon. It’s a rough training for Cole, full of knocks from horses, princesses, and other knights. Nevertheless, Cole finds his knighthood education worthwhile, and he quickly becomes Sir Percival’s greatest supporter. Then the Underwear Dragon arrives and lays waste to the kingdom. One by one, the knights fall to the dragon’s wrath until Cole’s the last brave hero standing in its way. Full of amusing asides, dry wit, and droll pacing, Rothman’s tale of a knight-in-training piles on the laughs even if the humor seems hit-and-miss at times. (Giggles induced by the dragon’s underwear will abate after a few pages.) Still, the author sneaks in a refreshing deconstruction of knighthood that peels back the impenetrable facade for something that’s altogether comical and, thus, empathetic. Oswald’s frenetic artwork—appropriately grand and splashy—provides lots of gags, particularly via exaggerated facial expressions. Cole and Sir Percival present White; the kingdom is a diverse one. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 87.3% of actual size.)

A tiny knight’s tale that’s hard not to like. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-11989-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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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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