An enjoyable, endearing collection.

TOO SMALL TOLA

A young girl learns that she doesn’t have to be big to make a difference.

Tola lives in Lagos, Nigeria, with her siblings—sister Moji and brother Dapo, who call her “Too Small Tola” because she is the smallest—under the care of their grandmother. Each of the three short chapters tells of Tola’s adventures while immersing readers in Lagos daily life. In Tola’s first adventure, Grandmommy chooses Tola to take shopping, causing Tola to panic as she worries she won’t be able to carry their purchases. After collecting everything from Grandmommy’s seemingly never-ending list, they make their way home, taking plenty of breaks that leave Tola’s siblings jealous. For her second adventure, she must collect water from the well near their building and then make it to school on time, but she must conquer a mean, older kid first. Tola’s final adventure occurs during a time of celebrations when Eid falls at the same time as Easter. Readers follow along as Tola takes on the challenge of measuring clients for Mr. Abdul—a tailor who lives in Tola’s building—after he breaks his leg. This collection of stories is perfect for transitioning readers, with its manageable chapters, clear, plain language, simple sentence structures, wry sense of humor, and realistic illustrations of the diverse Nigerian cast. While some elements may be unfamiliar to readers outside Tola’s culture, readers will find anchors in Tola’s relationships.

An enjoyable, endearing collection. (Fiction. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1127-6

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Italics and exclamation points may be overused, but this new humorous series is full of gently amusing magical surprises.

THE SUPER-SPOOKY FRIGHT NIGHT!

From the Hubble Bubble series , Vol. 1

Shades of Bewitched, the old TV show featuring a witch married to a regular guy.

This new chapter-book series stars Pandora, a white girl with two grandmas—the good witch, Granny Crow, in a patterned minidress, whose magical powers enliven any party or school outing, and Granny Podmore, in her cardigan and plaid skirt, a kind but stereotypical grandmother who cleans and cooks. Pandora’s friends include Nellie, a black girl, and Nellie’s mom is also depicted as black in the exuberant line drawings with gray washes. The three chapterlong adventures are rather tame, meant for readers who want fun rather than fright. In “The Super-Spooky Fright Night!” (all titles have exclamation points), the two grandmothers host a Halloween party. Granny Crow creates “bat-shaped cookies that hung around the bowls, and a custard cat (that actually meowed!).” Granny Podmore makes “the neatest swans” from napkins. Granny Crow conjures up musical broomsticks when Granny Podmore wants to introduce musical chairs. The evening ends happily when Granny Podmore uses Ollie, her vacuum cleaner, to suck up little pumpkins from Granny Crow’s pumpkin pop gone wild. Only Granny Crow appears in the other stories, making teddy bears come alive to give a “teddy bears’ picnic!” and causing a nasty teacher to accidentally cast a spell that turns a school swimming lesson into utter chaos.

Italics and exclamation points may be overused, but this new humorous series is full of gently amusing magical surprises. (Fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: Aug. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8653-6

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Nosy Crow/Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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Hopefully future installments will carry some substance.

THE TRIPLETS GET CHARMED

From the Trillium Sisters series , Vol. 1

An origin story for mysterious, magical triplets.

Eight-year-old triplets Emmy, Clare, and Giselle celebrate Founding Day—the day their veterinarian father, Dr. J.A., found them—instead of a birthday. Each girl has a baby animal pet (bear cub Claw, wolf pup Fluffy, and eaglet Soar), feels a special connection to trillium flowers for their three petals, and is indistinguishable from her sisters aside from occasional telling-not-showing characterization and illustrations that render Giselle as a girl of color while the rest of the family presents White. On their eighth Founding Day, their father, upset to see that the trillium patch where he first found his daughters has been uprooted, diverges from their traditions to replant the flowers and to reveal that there’s more to the original Founding Day story than he’s told them. Back then, a large trillium flower glowed before bursting into sparkles and leaving trillium petal charms behind that Dr. J.A. now gives to the girls. Later, when Emmy and their younger brother, Zee, go to pick strawberries, Zee falls into a river. The triplets work together to try to save him, but it isn’t enough until the charms activate, giving the girls superpowers and new outfits, and making their pets huge. Although the woodsy setting (especially their treehouse home) and animals charm, the blandness of both characters and plot falls short of magical. In the simultaneously releasing sequel, Bestie Day, freed from the burden of expository backstory, the plot (a White bully and her subservient, Asian-presenting best friend endanger bees by cutting too many wildflowers) gets moving faster but offers only marginal improvements.

Hopefully future installments will carry some substance. (Fantasy. 7-9)

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64595-014-1

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Pixel+Ink

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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