GRUMPY MONKEY FRESHLY SQUEEZED

From the Grumpy Monkey series

Grumpy Monkey moves from picture books to a graphic-novel chapter book, in which he tolerates his friends’ goofy antics during a group journey to an orange grove.

Divided into three chapters of cartoon-style comics, with bonus interludes in between, the book features Jim Panzee, the protagonist of the Grumpy Monkey picture-book series. He is on his relaxing Wednesday Walk, stress orange in hand, but little is quiet about his journey once his jungle friends appear. After the accumulation of unwanted companions causes Jim to squeeze his stress orange so hard that he destroys it, the group seeks a replacement, stopping for a papaya fight, a splash party in the water, and some swinging from vines. They eventually escape angry parrots with the only orange the parrots didn’t devour. There’s a good dose of potty humor: Leslie the giraffe responds to Norman the gorilla’s invitation to come along with “you bet your butt I do,” and two spreads are devoted to poop humor (with Jim as the butt of the joke). There’s also wordplay (a chapter called “Orange Ya Glad We Made It?”; Jim’s repeated mantra, “Squeeze, squeeze, mind at ease”; and a guide to speaking Jim’s nonsense language, in which the syllable ob is inserted before vowels in every word). That the book pauses for a “Primate Primer” with talking simians will be like pouring lemon juice on a cut for those readers who see in anthropomorphized monkeys a perpetuation of pernicious anti-Black stereotypes.

Disappointing. (Graphic fiction. 6-10)

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-30601-7

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE SCHOOLS

From the My Purple World series

A color-themed vision of what school should be like.

In what amounts to a rehash of The World Needs More Purple People (2020), Bell and Hart address adult as well as young readers to explain what “curious and kind you” can do to make school, or for that matter the universe, a better place. Again culminating in the vague but familiar “JUST. BE. YOU!” the program remains much the same—including asking questions both “universe-sized” (“Could you make a burrito larger than a garbage truck?”) and “smaller, people-sized” (i.e., personal), working hard to learn and make things, offering praise and encouragement, speaking up and out, laughing together, and listening to others. In the illustrations, light-skinned, blond-haired narrator Penny poses amid a busy, open-mouthed, diverse cast that includes a child wearing a hijab and one who uses a wheelchair. Wiseman opts to show fewer grown-ups here, but the children are the same as in the earlier book, and a scene showing two figures blowing chocolate milk out of their noses essentially recycles a visual joke from the previous outing. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-43490-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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