A joyful if simplistic celebration of Chinese New Year culture.

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HOW TO CATCH A DRAGON

From the How to Catch… series

A kid tries to catch a good-luck dragon hiding around town as the family prepares for Chinese New Year following the formula established in How To Catch an Elf (2016) and other series installments.

After hearing Mom wish for a dragon to bring health and fortune for the new year, a boy (presumably Chinese) and several friends (of varying racial presentations) discover a dragon lurking about town. Among the Chinese-style architecture of the town buildings, they employ various fantastical lures related to Chinese culture to catch it, including a web of noodles and sticky rice, a giant red lantern, gold coins, and a dragon dance. The simple and often awkward rhyming quatrains leave no room for deeper insights into Chinese culture, but each stanza does include one or two highlighted words whose Chinese translation can then be found within the illustration. The entire text is translated into Simplified Chinese with Pinyin in the backmatter for cross-referencing. Elkerton’s digitally painted, colorful cartoon illustrations depict a diverse cast of modern-looking children against a backdrop of a traditional Chinese village. Ultimately, despite the protagonist’s failure to catch the dragon, it is being within the embrace of a loving family (depicted as a mother and a grandmother) that is the luckiest of all.

A joyful if simplistic celebration of Chinese New Year culture. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-9369-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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A wandering effort, happy but pointless.

DRAGONS LOVE TACOS

From the Dragons Love Tacos series

The perfect book for kids who love dragons and mild tacos.

Rubin’s story starts with an incantatory edge: “Hey, kid! Did you know that dragons love tacos? They love beef tacos and chicken tacos. They love really big gigantic tacos and tiny little baby tacos as well.” The playing field is set: dragons, tacos. As a pairing, they are fairly silly, and when the kicker comes in—that dragons hate spicy salsa, which ignites their inner fireworks—the silliness is sillier still. Second nature, after all, is for dragons to blow flames out their noses. So when the kid throws a taco party for the dragons, it seems a weak device that the clearly labeled “totally mild” salsa comes with spicy jalapenos in the fine print, prompting the dragons to burn down the house, resulting in a barn-raising at which more tacos are served. Harmless, but if there is a parable hidden in the dragon-taco tale, it is hidden in the unlit deep, and as a measure of lunacy, bridled or unbridled, it doesn’t make the leap into the outer reaches of imagination. Salmieri’s artwork is fitting, with a crabbed, ethereal line work reminiscent of Peter Sís, but the story does not offer it enough range.

A wandering effort, happy but pointless. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3680-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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For fans of Evert and Breiehagen’s Wish Book series.

THE POLAR BEAR WISH

Anja and her dog, Birki, do their best to get to a Christmas party in a frozen Nordic landscape.

Anja wishes she had a dog sled to harness Birki to in order to get to the party. The next morning, her cousin Erik appears with his dog sled and an offer to take her there. Lost in a blizzard, they encounter talking wolves who take them to a tent where they can spend the night. A baby polar bear named Tiny appears, separated from his mother. The following day takes them all on an adventure through glaciers and fjords, past an ice castle, and finally to Tiny’s mother and to the party. This digitally produced book is illustrated with photographs that capture the Nordic setting. Unfortunately, the overall effect is weirdly flat, with elements awkwardly set together in images that lack depth. A polar bear perches awkwardly on top of oddly scaled pack ice; Anja and Erik spend a night in the ice castle in niches chiseled into the wall, but they seem oddly disconnected from it. The book has an old-fashioned, European feel; the white, blond children’s red caps and traditional clothing stand out against the dim, bluish winter light. But the wooden, overlong text does little to cultivate the magical fantasy feeling that it’s aiming for.

For fans of Evert and Breiehagen’s Wish Book series. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6566-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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