One of those modest efforts that throws off more light than one might expect from the humble glow of its parts.

DRAGONS

FATHER AND SON

Drake the young dragon learns that tradition has two sides, and only one is buttered.

Drake lives with his father, a blustering, flame-belching, butterball-bellied bully in a wife-beater, who has decided that it’s time that Drake “behaved like a real dragon” and “burn a few houses.” “But why?” Drake wonders. “It’s tradition!” Flying over the village in search of a suitable house to immolate, Drake espies a perfect wooden target. Just as he is working up a head of steam, a boy runs out, and they quickly bond over the strictures of parents. “And if you don’t do what he says, will you be told off?” The boy suggests an alternative: the schoolhouse. The students disarm Drake with their admiration, however, and so it goes at each new venue: something intervenes to forestall Drake’s scorched-earth tradition. Lacroix’s narrative is modestly wordy for a picture book but not aimlessly so, and the storyline has a pleasingly low-key humor that neatly displays the blinkered side of tradition. The design of the book, along with Badel’s illustrations—two-page spreads in which a complete page of elegantly wonky watercolor artwork bleeds into the opposite text page—gives the story an exceptional sense of flow. Drake is pudgily adorable, and the humans (all evidently white) have a Quentin Blake–esque air to them.

One of those modest efforts that throws off more light than one might expect from the humble glow of its parts. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-910277-25-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Words & Pictures

Review Posted Online: June 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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Halloween is used merely as a backdrop; better holiday titles for young readers are available.

THE LITTLE GHOST WHO WAS A QUILT

A ghost learns to appreciate his differences.

The little ghost protagonist of this title is unusual. He’s a quilt, not a lightweight sheet like his parents and friends. He dislikes being different despite his mom’s reassurance that his ancestors also had unconventional appearances. Halloween makes the little ghost happy, though. He decides to watch trick-or-treaters by draping over a porch chair—but lands on a porch rail instead. A mom accompanying her daughter picks him up, wraps him around her chilly daughter, and brings him home with them! The family likes his looks and comforting warmth, and the little ghost immediately feels better about himself. As soon as he’s able to, he flies out through the chimney and muses happily that this adventure happened only due to his being a quilt. This odd but gently told story conveys the importance of self-respect and acceptance of one’s uniqueness. The delivery of this positive message has something of a heavy-handed feel and is rushed besides. It also isn’t entirely logical: The protagonist could have been a different type of covering; a blanket, for instance, might have enjoyed an identical experience. The soft, pleasing illustrations’ palette of tans, grays, white, black, some touches of color, and, occasionally, white text against black backgrounds suggest isolation, such as the ghost feels about himself. Most humans, including the trick-or-treating mom and daughter, have beige skin. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-16.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 66.2% of actual size.)

Halloween is used merely as a backdrop; better holiday titles for young readers are available. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6447-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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