Despite incongruities, Rubin’s silly story and McCreery’s animation-quality artwork will attract eager fans.

EL CHUPACABRAS

The monster with a taste for goats’ blood is at the center of this bilingual tale.

On an isolated ranch, Carla and her dad, Héctor, wake up to an ominous sound. The next day their wide-eyed goats are trembling in a tree—all but one. Carla cycles around their property until she comes upon what looks like a goat pancake. Aside from its head (“¡Blaaaaa!”), the goat is a boneless puddle. “¡EL CHUPACABRAS!” Héctor cries, with the handkerchief-munching cabra draped limply across his arms. A flower peddler offers protective magic dust, but Héctor overdoes it. After a few sneezes, the unhappy goats are taller than the distant town’s church—and they have enormous appetites. The story plays fast and loose with the legend, taking place “a long time ago,” even though the chupacabras reportedly first appeared in Puerto Rico in 1995. Rubin’s fully bilingual text weaves English together with Spanish with no discernable pattern, often switching in the middle of a sentence, which may prove a challenge for some. McCreery’s humorous illustrations (the goats are hilarious) are sometimes at odds with the text. The ranch appears to be in the desert Southwest, but Carla quickly rides her bicycle to a convenient forest. After a goat eats the bell tower, the narrative states there was no “permanent damage.” The chupacabras, described as a “tiny gentleman,” is a visual mix of the Grinch and a simian reptile; Carla and Héctor have brown skin and straight, black hair.

Despite incongruities, Rubin’s silly story and McCreery’s animation-quality artwork will attract eager fans. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-53929-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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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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Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed.

YOU DON'T WANT A DRAGON!

If you thought having a unicorn as a pet was hard, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tried owning a dragon.

The young protagonist of You Don’t Want a Unicorn! (2017) is back, and they clearly haven’t learned their lesson. Now they’ve wished for a pet dragon. As the intrusive narrator is quick to point out, everything about it seems fun at the beginning. However, it’s not long before the doglike dragon starts chasing squirrels, drooling, pooping (ever wondered where charcoal comes from?), scooting its butt across the floor (leaving fire and flames behind), and more. By now, the dragon has grown too huge to keep, so the child (who appears white and also to live alone) wishes it away and settles for a cute little hamster instead. A perfect pet…until it finds a stray magical cupcake. Simple cartoon art and a surfeit of jokes about defecation suggest this book will find an appreciative audience. The dragon/dog equivalences are cute on an initial read, but they may not be strong enough to convince anyone to return. Moreover, a surprising amount of the plot hinges on having read the previous book in this series (it’s the only way readers will know that cupcakes are unicorn poop).

Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53580-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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