Likely to find mass appeal but should be considered with scrutiny. (Picture book. 4-8)

GRUMPY MONKEY PARTY TIME!

Jim Panzee—the primate protagonist of Grumpy Monkey (2019) fame—is having a fine day until he receives an invitation to a party; the comic anxiety commences.

The source of Jim’s nerves is the idea of dancing. Jim Panzee, as it turns out, doesn’t know how to dance. This information shocks his jungle friends, who each give him pointers on how to bust a move on the dance floor. Jim tries to go along with his friends but discovers he’s not having a good time, not because he can’t dance, but because he actually doesn’t like dancing. Speaking out about his preferences inspires other animals to voice that they aren’t fans of the pastime either. They discover there are many other fun things to do at a party, like enjoy refreshments and play games, and still have a great time. Like its precursor, this title emphasizes self-acceptance and authenticity. It effectively communicates through the fanciful illustrations the feelings of facing pressure to conform to others’ expectations and the relief of honesty. Whatever gains this title develops in terms of social-emotional learning concepts, however, are offset by the insensitive use of a monkey protagonist, particularly linked to the racialized skill of dancing. It’s a shame that a series so imbued with emotional intelligence does not demonstrate more awareness of historical use of simian imagery as a derogatory referent to black people.

Likely to find mass appeal but should be considered with scrutiny. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-593-11862-7

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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A solid if message-driven conversation starter about the hard parts of learning.

THE MAGICAL YET

Children realize their dreams one step at a time in this story about growth mindset.

A child crashes and damages a new bicycle on a dark, rainy day. Attempting a wheelie, the novice cyclist falls onto the sidewalk, grimacing, and, having internalized this setback as failure, vows to never ride again but to “walk…forever.” Then the unnamed protagonist happens upon a glowing orb in the forest, a “thought rearranger-er”—a luminous pink fairy called the Magical Yet. This Yet reminds the child of past accomplishments and encourages perseverance. The second-person rhyming couplets remind readers that mistakes are part of learning and that with patience and effort, children can achieve. Readers see the protagonist learn to ride the bike before a flash-forward shows the child as a capable college graduate confidently designing a sleek new bike. This book shines with diversity: racial, ethnic, ability, and gender. The gender-indeterminate protagonist has light brown skin and exuberant curly locks; Amid the bustling secondary cast, one child uses a prosthesis, and another wears hijab. At no point in the text is the Yet defined as a metaphor for a growth mindset; adults reading with younger children will likely need to clarify this abstract lesson. The artwork is powerful and detailed—pay special attention to the endpapers that progress to show the Yet at work.

A solid if message-driven conversation starter about the hard parts of learning. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-02562-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion/LBYR

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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A deliciously sweet reminder to try one’s unique best.

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THE SMART COOKIE

From the Food Group series

This smart cookie wasn’t alwaysa smart cookie.

At the corner of Sweet Street stands a bakery, which a whole range of buns and cakes and treats calls home, including a small cookie who “didn’t feel comfortable speaking up or sharing” any ideas once upon a time. During the early days of gingerbread school, this cookie (with sprinkles on its top half, above its wide eyes and tiny, smiling mouth) never got the best grades, didn’t raise a hand to answer questions, and almost always finished most tests last, despite all best efforts. As a result, the cookie would worry away the nights inside of a cookie jar. Then one day, kind Ms. Biscotti assigns some homework that asks everyone “to create something completely original.” What to do? The cookie’s first attempts (baking, building a birdhouse, sculpting) fail, but an idea strikes soon enough. “A poem!” Titling its opus “My Crumby Days,” the budding cookie poet writes and writes until done. “AHA!” When the time arrives to share the poem with the class, this cookie learns that there’s more than one way to be smart. John and Oswald’s latest installment in the hilarious Food Group series continues to provide plenty of belly laughs (thanks to puns galore!) and mini buns of wisdom in a wholly effervescent package. Oswald’s artwork retains its playful, colorful creative streak. Although slightly less effective than its predecessors due to its rather broad message, this one’s nonetheless an excellent addition to the menu.(This book was reviewed digitally.)

A deliciously sweet reminder to try one’s unique best. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-304540-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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