Probably fun for unicorn lovers.

NERDYCORN

Fern’s not like other unicorns.

She’d rather tinker with robots in her laboratory than “[splash] majestically” in waterfalls, and she prefers chemistry to glitter (as if chemistry can’t include glitter!). Where other unicorns are adorned with hearts, stars, and flowers, Fern sports dots, stripes, and a tool belt, though the distinction can be hard to discern in pastel-dominated art that makes everyone look charmingly twee. Of course, other unicorns make fun of Fern’s bespectacled nerdiness and exclude her from their Sparkle Dance Parties. So she decides never to help them again, in a fabulously grumpy double-page close-up: “The next time they need an engine rebuilt, turbo-sprocket installed, or hydrothermal capacitor welded, they are on their own.” The text seems to be going for as many technical-sounding words with as little meaning as possible—though the illustrations do properly depict several tools, including a truing stand, a multimeter, and calipers. As it turns out, the Sparkle Dance Parties depend on technology, and Fern’s the only one who can fix the “starlight bedazzler,” so the rude unicorns return to beg. At first Fern doesn’t bother, but she eventually concludes that “being smart, a good friend, and always willing to help others [is] far more important than holding on to a grudge.” Once she saves the dance, the other unicorns clamor to celebrate her skills; those hoping for a wise take on uniqueness should look elsewhere. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 62% of actual size.)

Probably fun for unicorn lovers. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5344-6005-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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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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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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