A sly, though problematic, nod of appreciation to mothers, hidden behind streamers, confetti and a mouthful of cake.

THE BIRTHDAY QUEEN

The Birthday Queen does everything possible to make sure birthday celebrations are perfect.

It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it. Invitations need to be written and sent. Clowns must be carefully screened. And of course, every single birthday game must be tried and approved. But when it comes to readers’ birthdays? The Birthday Queen steps it up a notch. She whips up a celebration at a moment’s notice, complete with cake to exact specifications, beautifully wrapped presents and balloons that fly into place as soon as the guests arrive. Just who is the Birthday Queen? If "you" look closely—the narration is in the second person—beneath the jeweled crown and past the bright rainbow dress, readers just may recognize someone special in their own family (so long as their mothers are white and present). In a wild frenzy reminiscent of a Candy Land board explosion, colors burst forth from every page. The Birthday Queen herself is not pretty in pink; she is a brightly rouged, belly-laughing, apple-cheeked blonde. Kids will get swept up in the birthday excitement, while adult readers will recognize the small moments of manic preparation—which always “magically” turn out in the end. It’s just too bad, given the seemingly inclusive direct address, that this queen-cum-mom is ethnically specific, leaving kids whose moms are not white out in the cold.

A sly, though problematic, nod of appreciation to mothers, hidden behind streamers, confetti and a mouthful of cake. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-41474-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Blue Sky/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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Readers will delight in discovering the joyous time pumpkins have when it’s Halloween.

PUMPKIN MAGIC

Magical moonbeams awaken a pumpkin patch to raucous Halloween-season revelry.

A moonbeam illuminates and energizes a smiley-faced pumpkin sitting alone on a stair; it promptly takes off to find a friend with whom to have a good time. An entire pumpkin patch, also sparked by the magical moon, instantly comes alive. And what merriment all the grinning gourds get up to! Their playful shenanigans include piling high on top of one another, bouncing on a trampoline, dancing, marching, and drumming, wearing costumes, and competing in games. They even engage in activities usually reserved for other holiday-themed icons—flying on brooms and making magic, for instance. As dawn approaches, the pumpkin leader escorts the cavalcade back home. At sunrise, each one takes up residence on a different house’s front porch and awaits that evening’s moonbeams to work their magic again. Liveliness and good cheer abound in this frisky rhyming tale in which the perennial holiday symbols naturally take center stage. Perky couplets that read and scan very well appear on most pages and are accompanied by energetic, expressive illustrations that highlight vivid oranges, yellows, blues, purples, and greens with touches of other bright shades.

Readers will delight in discovering the joyous time pumpkins have when it’s Halloween. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-56332-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Cartwheel/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Charming Easter fun.

PETER EASTER FROG

You may know the Easter Bunny, but get ready to meet Peter Easter Frog!

Peter loves Easter, and he’s not going to let the fact that he’s a frog and not a bunny stop him, especially when he’s so good at hopping! He looks absolutely delighted to be hopping around delivering Easter eggs. As he hops along, so does a repeated refrain, which always begins with two words ending with “-ity” coupled with “Easter’s on its—” (“Squishity, squashity, Easter’s on its—”; “Yippity, yappity, Easter’s on its—”); each page turn playfully upends the expected conclusion of the line. Karas’ cheery art portrays a growing array of animals: a turtle decked out in lipstick and a spiffy Easter bonnet, a cow with flower choker necklace, and a sheepdog and a chipmunk sans finery. As Peter gives out colorful, patterned Easter eggs to the other animals, they are, at first, shocked to see an Easter frog but soon join him in his charitable mission to spread Easter cheer. The moment when the cow responds to the dog’s challenge that she is not a cow-bunny by pointing out its own breed as a “sheepdog” may elicit laughs, especially from adult readers. When the group finally meets the real Easter Bunny—hilariously, at the end of a dark tunnel—it seems that things may go awry, but all ends hoppily, happily, and inclusively. The text does not use dialogue tags, instead setting narration and dialogue in separate, distinctive typefaces; unfortunately, this design is not consistently applied, which may confuse readers. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 26.8% of actual size.)

Charming Easter fun. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6489-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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