Humorous enough in both text and illustrations, but the message is muddled.

The true story of a racehorse that failed to win a single contest.

Thoroughbred racehorse Zippy Chippy comes from exalted bloodlines. But racehorse genes notwithstanding, Zippy is slow on the track and, the narrative implies, not terribly competitive. “Instead of running, Zippy sometimes stood perfectly still.” However, when he did (finally) finish a race, he “would prance off the course, head and tail held high.” So it’s confusing when the story then tells readers that his owner, Felix Monserrate, “felt that Zippy needed a win…to boost his morale” and tries various ways to turn Zippy into a winner. Zippy continues to race, and the quirky, pokey horse becomes a crowd favorite. At Zippy’s last race, his 100th, he takes a moment—after the starting bell—to bow to the crowd. (He finishes last.) Author Bennett’s ending salvo, “it takes guts to compete [and] courage to dream.…[Y]ou can lose…and still be a winner,” is rallying, but the body of the story doesn’t quite get there, instead placing more emphasis on Monserrate’s attempts to turn Zippy into a winner rather than validating Zippy’s quirky personality. Szalay’s full-color illustrations have a lively, angular appearance with well-thought-out perspectives and effectively utilize both full-page and double-page spreads. Monserrate is Puerto Rican, and other humans depicted are diverse.

Humorous enough in both text and illustrations, but the message is muddled. (author’s note, bibliography) (Informational picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7358-4396-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: NorthSouth

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019


From the Celebrate the World series

Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project.

The Celebrate the World series spotlights Lunar New Year.

This board book blends expository text and first-person-plural narrative, introducing readers to the holiday. Chau’s distinctive, finely textured watercolor paintings add depth, transitioning smoothly from a grand cityscape to the dining room table, from fantasies of the past to dumplings of the present. The text attempts to provide a broad look at the subject, including other names for the celebration, related cosmology, and historical background, as well as a more-personal discussion of traditions and practices. Yet it’s never clear who the narrator is—while the narrative indicates the existence of some consistent, monolithic group who participates in specific rituals of celebration (“Before the new year celebrations begin, we clean our homes—and ourselves!”), the illustrations depict different people in every image. Indeed, observances of Lunar New Year are as diverse as the people who celebrate it, which neither the text nor the images—all of the people appear to be Asian—fully acknowledges. Also unclear is the book’s intended audience. With large blocks of explication on every spread, it is entirely unappealing for the board-book set, and the format may make it equally unattractive to an older, more appropriate audience. Still, readers may appreciate seeing an important celebration warmly and vibrantly portrayed.

Lovely illustrations wasted on this misguided project. (Board book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3303-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019


A gleeful game for budding naturalists.

Artfully cropped animal portraits challenge viewers to guess which end they’re seeing.

In what will be a crowd-pleasing and inevitably raucous guessing game, a series of close-up stock photos invite children to call out one of the titular alternatives. A page turn reveals answers and basic facts about each creature backed up by more of the latter in a closing map and table. Some of the posers, like the tail of an okapi or the nose on a proboscis monkey, are easy enough to guess—but the moist nose on a star-nosed mole really does look like an anus, and the false “eyes” on the hind ends of a Cuyaba dwarf frog and a Promethea moth caterpillar will fool many. Better yet, Lavelle saves a kicker for the finale with a glimpse of a small parasitical pearlfish peeking out of a sea cucumber’s rear so that the answer is actually face and butt. “Animal identification can be tricky!” she concludes, noting that many of the features here function as defenses against attack: “In the animal world, sometimes your butt will save your face and your face just might save your butt!” (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A gleeful game for budding naturalists. (author’s note) (Informational picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: July 11, 2023

ISBN: 9781728271170

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks eXplore

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023

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