Readers will applaud this elegantly designed, well-told story. Brava, indeed.

READ REVIEW

VAMPIRINA BALLERINA

Pace and Pham have choreographed a delightful tale of a winsome young vampire trying to make her ballerina dreams come true.

The deadpan text includes plenty of good advice for anyone with dancing aspirations: “Always drink plenty of water and eat healthy meals…get a good day’s sleep…move with your head held high,” and “Practice! Practice! PRACTICE!” But this vampire differs quite a bit from her fellow dance students, with her black leotard and winged cape, her pointy fangs and her ability to “poof” into a bat at the most inopportune moment. Not only does she not fit in, but she also frightens her classmates and alarms Madame with the absence of her reflection in the studio mirror. As the evening of her big debut nears, the vampirina’s supportive family rallies around her and creates a beautiful costume of spider lace and swan feathers. Then “the lights dim… / the music swells, / and the curtain opens”—as does a dramatic double gatefold to reveal the five dancers executing an exuberant performance. The pen-and-ink–and-watercolor illustrations paint a cozy blue-gray world for the vampires’ home, contrasting with the brighter, lighter dance school portrayed in pinks. Deft strokes capture facial expressions that reveal nervousness, effort, fear, surprise, confidence and joy. By the show’s end, the prima vampire has exceeded everyone’s expectations, including her own.

Readers will applaud this elegantly designed, well-told story. Brava, indeed. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5753-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: July 18, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

HEY, DUCK!

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations.

I BELIEVE I CAN

Diversity is the face of this picture book designed to inspire confidence in children.

Fans of Byers and Bobo’s I Am Enough (2018) will enjoy this book that comes with a universal message of self-acceptance. A line of children practices ballet at the barre; refreshingly, two of the four are visibly (and adorably) pudgy. Another group tends a couple of raised beds; one of them wears hijab. Two more children coax a trepidatious friend down a steep slide. Further images, of children pretending to be pirates, dragons, mimes, playing superhero and soccer, and cooking, are equally endearing, but unfortunately they don’t add enough heft to set the book apart from other empowerment books for children. Though the illustrations shine, the text remains pedagogic and bland. Clichés abound: “When I believe in myself, there’s simply nothing I can’t do”; “Sometimes I am right, and sometimes I am wrong. / But even when I make mistakes, I learn from them to make me strong.” The inclusion of children with varying abilities, religions, genders, body types, and racial presentations creates an inviting tone that makes the book palatable. It’s hard to argue with the titular sentiment, but this is not the only book of its ilk on the shelf.

Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266713-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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