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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Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life.

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BE YOU!

An inspirational picture book offers life advice for readers who want to be themselves.

Replete with sparkling, often quirky illustrations of children living their best lives, this book is a gorgeous guidebook for those seeking encouragement while encountering life’s challenges. The children featured—a racially diverse group ranging from infants to preschoolers—cheerfully navigate the various injunctions that flow through the text: “Be curious.…Be adventurous.…Be persistent.…Be kind.” What is remarkable about the book is that even though the instructions and the brief sentences explaining them are at times vague, the illustrations expand on them in ways readers will find endearing and uplifting. Those depicting painful or challenging moments are especially effective. The “Be persistent” double-page spread shows a child in a boat on stormy seas; it’s rich with deep blues as it emphasizes the energy of wind and rain and struggle in the face of challenge. Together with the accompanying repeated phrase “Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop. Keep going, never stop,” this spread arrests readers. By contrast, the “Be kind. Be understanding” spread simply presents two children’s faces, one cast in blue and the other in gold, but the empathy that Reynolds conveys is similarly captivating. While there is no plot to pull readers through the pages, the book provides rich fodder for caregivers to use as teachable moments, both informally and in classroom settings.

Both beautiful and inspiring as graduation gift or guide to life. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-57231-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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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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