Ai ya—not the happiest New Year tale.

THE NIAN MONSTER

A little girl in Shanghai outwits a Lunar New Year monster.

Xingling is grocery shopping with her grandmother days before the Chinese New Year festivities are to begin. Curious about all the red decorations, she learns that once upon a time there was a very hungry monster who threatened villages. The monster, fortunately, had three fears—“loud sounds, fire, and the color red”—and the Chinese learned how to keep safe from it. Unfortunately, the monster, named Nian, soon appears in Shanghai very hungry and very unperturbed by ancient customs. Xingling cleverly finds three new, traditional means to defeat Nian: a bowl containing “the longest noodle in China” (which sends him snoozing), bony milkfish (which hurts his throat), and a rice cake made with very sticky rice (which glues his jaws together). Wang brings together traditional storytelling elements in her tale—three tasks and repetition of phrases—in this contemporary setting of a Chinese New Year story. However, the writing is pedestrian and will not hold up to multiple readings. The explanation that “nian” means either “year” or “sticky” comes only in the author’s note. Chau’s artwork is colorful but very busy; Xingling is drawn with giant, manga-style eyes, though the other Chinese characters have simple ink-dot eyes. Also, there is no mention of which year of the 12-year cycle is being celebrated.

Ai ya—not the happiest New Year tale. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-8075-5642-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kids may choose differently at the pumpkin patch after reading this tale, though any deeper message may be lost on them.

STUMPKIN

A stemless pumpkin who isn’t chosen gets the best Halloween of all.

On the shelves outside a shop in a busy city, a shopkeeper makes a display of orange pumpkins and a single yellow gourd. They are all sizes and shapes and have lovely stems, save for one. Poor Stumpkin worries that, despite his good qualities, his stemlessness will prevent him from becoming a jack-o’-lantern like all the other pumpkins that go home with customers to decorate the windows across the street. On Halloween night, he alone is left (even the gourd went home with someone!). So the shopkeeper scoops him up. The spreads that follow are marvelous, wordless creations that will delight young readers: A black spread is followed by one with an orange-rimmed white triangle on the verso, then one with similar triangles on both pages. “Stumpkin wouldn’t be getting a window. And he wouldn’t be getting a new home. // He already had a home.” The final page shows Stumpkin as a jack-o’-lantern back on the shelves with the shopkeeper’s friendly black cat. Though undoubtedly feel-good, the book may leave readers wondering exactly what it’s saying about Stumpkin’s physical irregularity—is it some kind of disability metaphor? The city sights, people, and animals other than the cat are all black silhouettes, keeping the focus on Stumpkin.

Kids may choose differently at the pumpkin patch after reading this tale, though any deeper message may be lost on them. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1362-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

ALWAYS MORE LOVE

An interactive book works to get its titular message across to readers.

The narrator, an anthropomorphic cartoon heart with big eyes and stick arms and legs, is nothing if not exuberant in its attempts, clumsy and cloying as they may be. “I love you so much, / but there’s more in my heart. / How is that possible? / Well, where do I start? // Now move in close, and you will see / just how much you mean to me. // My love is huge—below, above. / As you can tell, there’s always more love!” The page following the instruction to move in shows a close-up of the top of the heart and its eyes, one stick arm pointing skyward, though despite the admonition “you can tell,” readers will glean nothing about love from this picture. À la Hervé Tullet, the book prompts readers to act, but the instructions can sometimes be confusing (see above) and are largely irrelevant to the following spread, supposedly triggered by the suggested actions. The heart, suddenly supplied with a painter’s palette and a beret and surrounded by blobs of color, instructs readers to “Shake the book to see what I can be.” The page turn reveals hearts of all different colors, one rainbow-striped, and then different shapes. Most troublingly, the heart, who is clearly meant to be a stand-in for loved ones, states, “I’m always here for you,” which for too many children is heartbreakingly not true.

Skip. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-7282-1376-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more