While the illustrations are often flawed and feel outdated, their overall boldness and simplicity make for a nice book of...



French illustrator Grée’s colorful and iconic images are put front and center alongside facts on nature, animals, transportation, and space in this encyclopedia for young readers.

This book walks through a young child’s world from the basics of plants, foods, and animals to human-made homes and modes of transportation. The illustrations are the focus, with bold, themed double-page spreads and colorful, lifelike images. Some pages are so picture-focused that they include next to no text, while others—such as the two pages on animal skills and survival—strike a nice balance of image and description. There are some useful diagrams, e.g., those that outline the life cycle of a butterfly and where gasoline comes from. By contrast, there are some that confuse, such as a cross section of a house that has a detailed bathroom with no toilet and is missing the accouterments of a 21st-century home (it’s got a TV antenna!). While for the most part people are inclusively illustrated, one spread of watercraft draws heavily and cringeworthily on stereotype in its depictions of Indigenous people paddling, respectively, a canoe, a kayak, and a raft. While this is a nice book of labeled pictures, an “encyclopedia” it is not, often raising more questions than it answers: What’s a queen ant or a hydroelectric power station? The index cross-references some items but not all.

While the illustrations are often flawed and feel outdated, their overall boldness and simplicity make for a nice book of pictures—but not a meaningful or useful encyclopedia. (Nonfiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-908985-97-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Button Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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More-conventional versions will be more likely to keep readers hooked.


An old Irish tale retold, featuring a renowned poet/teacher, a young warrior-in-training, and a very special fish.

It all begins when a salmon eats nine windfallen hazelnuts, thus acquiring “all the knowledge and secrets of the world.” Knowing that one taste of the salmon will transmit all that, “wise poet” Finnegas sets to fishing, eventually catches it, and orders his student Fionn to cook it without taking a single bite—only to be disappointed when Fionn burns himself on a drop of fat and reflexively puts his thumb in his mouth. Buckley offers a decidedly offbeat rendition of this popular tale, with dinosaur skeletons in one of her naïve-style collage scenes and a droll set of goals for warrior training that includes running beneath a knee-high branch. She also places Finnegas, in essence a bit player, in the forefront of a legend that’s really (and with stronger logic) been about the great hero Finn McCool since its earliest recorded versions. Unfortunately, the author seems to lose both interest and attention at the end. Following his climactic letdown (which is marred by a typo), Finnegas just drops abruptly out of view. Even a closing line about how the story’s now told far and wide dubs it only “Fionn and the Salmon of Knowledge.” There is no source note.

More-conventional versions will be more likely to keep readers hooked. (Picture book/folktale. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-76036-070-2

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Starfish Bay

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.


Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Clumsy propaganda for those already in the target audience.



Apparently, transgender people don’t exist.

After an author’s note stating that “You might be able to change the clothes you wear, but nothing can change your God-given, biological sexual identity,” this picture-book screed opens with a boy teasing a girl: “If you keep playing with the boys, you will turn into a boy!” Their teacher uses this as a springboard to explain that gender is “God’s good gift.” Chromosomes are “a code that says you are a boy and a code that says you are a girl,” and “God is the one who chooses your code.” The leadenly expository text whirls through original sin and the crucifixion, citing select bits of Scripture, lecturing that “God gave us our gender as a special gift, and God never makes mistakes.” There’s mention about how gender stereotypes are misguided, but only as a means of dismissing transgender identities. Backmatter references intersex conditions, claiming, horrifyingly, that “Because of the fall, a very small percentage of people are born with genetic disorders. Some of those disorders would affect a person’s sexual characteristics.” Crude, unartful, apparently computer-generated illustrations show a multiracial cast, including brown Bible characters. The admonition to love people despite their so-called gender confusion could possibly be considered harm reduction, but while the text does not advocate for violence or exclusion, it remains an attack on a marginalized population.

Clumsy propaganda for those already in the target audience. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64507-031-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: New Growth Press

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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