Slight and frustratingly incomplete.



From the Little Stories of Great Composers series

Minim, a mouse who loves both cheese and music, encounters the Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi.

In 19th-century Venice, Minim has a narrow escape in Vivaldi’s music school, where he has been sent to exchange a coin for a child’s baby tooth. Even without knowing that in Italy the tooth fairy employs a small mouse, young U.S. readers will be charmed. The night of this story is dark and cold, and Minim (the British term for a half-note) has more errands to do, but this mouse does love music. Lingering to read the child’s thank-you note imperils him when he is noticed by the cat. But fortunately, when the orchestra suddenly strikes up, the cat is more interested in the music than the mouse. Lafrance’s drawings accentuate the gray of the night and the institution and the small size of the mouse compared to its surroundings. (He is depicted with near-human proportions on the cover but is considerably smaller in interior illustrations.) All humans are shown as White. An accompanying CD includes the story, ably narrated by Colm Feore, and, curiously, only two of the three movements of Vivaldi’s “Winter,” from The Four Seasons. The backmatter includes the entire text of the winter sonnet and reveals that Vivaldi was choirmaster and concertmaster at a girls orphanage. He composed much of his music for his pupils and the orchestra of that institution (though not the selections accompanying this title). This is the third in a music-appreciation series which includes visits to Mozart and Tchaikovsky as well.

Slight and frustratingly incomplete. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-2-924774-84-7

Page Count: 36

Publisher: The Secret Mountain

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Good fun for all little ninjas and their parents.


After swinging out from the jungle after a long day of ninja-ing, Will makes his way home just in time for a bath. But as all ninjas know, danger lurks around every corner.

Even naughty ninjas get hungry, but Dad says, “Pee-yew,” and insists his little ninja get clean before going near a morsel. Ever the Naughty Ninja, Will follows his dad into the bathroom and immediately spies danger: Poisonous flies that have followed him from the jungle! As any parent would, his dad begs him not to say, “Ninja to the rescue,” because we all know what comes after a catchphrase…chaos! Through each increasingly rough rescue, Dad finds himself more and more defeated in his quest to complete bathtime, but ultimately he starts to find the infectious joy that only the ridiculousness of children can bring out in an adult. The art is bright and finds some nifty ninja perspectives that use the space well. It also places an interracial family at its center: Dad has brown skin and dark, puffy hair, and Mom is a white redhead; when out of his ninja cowl, Will looks like a slightly lighter-skinned version of his father. Kids will laugh at everything the dad is put through, and parents will knowingly nod, because we have all had nights with little ninjas soaking the bathroom floor. The book starts out a little text heavy but finds its groove quickly, reading smoothly going forward. Lots of action means it’s best not to save this one for bedtime.

Good fun for all little ninjas and their parents. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-9433-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2019

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