Nalvana is a bundle of creativity, spunk, and determination—readers will be happy to know her

Young protagonist Nalvana lives in a small town with long winters and struggles to find her own superpower.

Wherever Nalvana goes in her town she wonders what it would be like to have a superpower. She dresses like a superhero with a yellow cape and snow goggles instead of a cowl as she works to discover her special talent. On the first day of school in gym class, a classmate runs so fast he is a blur, so she tells him running must be his superpower. Later when she tells her mother about him over a snack, she wonders aloud if she might have a superpower too. “I’m sure we will find out soon,” her mother says. As time goes by, Nalvana observes one friend after another exhibiting their own superpowers. She congratulates them on their amazing abilities, but when she tries to do each one herself, she fails. However, in talking things out with her mother, Nalvana discovers she has a superpower, too. Inuit author Johnston’s text seamlessly blends fantasy with reality, sprinkling culturally specific details such as inuksuit and Inuktitut words into a universal story. Mack’s illustrations and soft palette match the tone of the story, printlike textures creating a cozy feel for Nalvana’s far north home.

Nalvana is a bundle of creativity, spunk, and determination—readers will be happy to know her . (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-77227-140-9

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Inhabit Media

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017


Mixed-race children certainly deserve mirror books, but they also deserve excellent text and illustrations. This one misses...

This tan-skinned, freckle-faced narrator extols her own virtues while describing the challenges of being of mixed race.

Protagonist Lilly appears on the cover, and her voluminous curly, twirly hair fills the image. Throughout the rhyming narrative, accompanied by cartoonish digital illustrations, Lilly brags on her dark skin (that isn’t very), “frizzy, wild” hair, eyebrows, intellect, and more. Her five friends present black, Asian, white (one blonde, one redheaded), and brown (this last uses a wheelchair). This array smacks of tokenism, since the protagonist focuses only on self-promotion, leaving no room for the friends’ character development. Lilly describes how hurtful racial microaggressions can be by recalling questions others ask her like “What are you?” She remains resilient and says that even though her skin and hair make her different, “the way that I look / Is not all I’m about.” But she spends so much time talking about her appearance that this may be hard for readers to believe. The rhyming verse that conveys her self-celebration is often clumsy and forced, resulting in a poorly written, plotless story for which the internal illustrations fall far short of the quality of the cover image.

Mixed-race children certainly deserve mirror books, but they also deserve excellent text and illustrations. This one misses the mark on both counts. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-63233-170-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Eifrig

Review Posted Online: June 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018


Fun, fun, fun all through the town!

This book’s gonna werk, werk, werk all through Pride Month and beyond.

Drag persona Lil Miss Hot Mess rewrites “The Wheels on the Bus” to create a fun, movement-filled, family-friendly celebration of drag. The text opens with the titular verse to establish the familiar song’s formulaic pattern: “The hips on the drag queen go SWISH, SWISH, SWISH… / ALL THROUGH THE TOWN!” Along the way, more and more drag queens join in the celebration. The unnamed queens proudly display a range of skin tones, sizes, and body modifications to create a diverse cast of realistic characters that could easily be spotted at a Pride event or on RuPaul’s Drag Race. The palette of both costumes and backgrounds is appropriately psychedelic, and there are plenty of jewels going “BLING, BLING, BLING.” Don’t tell the queens, but the flow is the book’s real star, because it encourages natural kinetic participation that will have groups of young readers giggling and miming along with the story. Libraries and bookshops hosting drag-queen storytimes will find this a popular choice, and those celebrating LGBTQ+ heritage will also find this a useful book for the pre-K crowd. Curious children unfamiliar with a drag queen may require a brief explanation, but the spectacle stands up just fine on its own platforms.

Fun, fun, fun all through the town! (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7624-6765-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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