This relatively gentle tale celebrating the power of imagination fails to cover new territory but is executed quite well....

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NIGHTTIME NINJA

Debut picture-book author DaCosta pens the quietly suspenseful quest of a ninja on a late-night mission…to the kitchen!

Succinct language full of vivid verbs describing the action sets the mood for Young’s lushly textured illustrations composed with cut paper, cloth, string and colored pencil. “The clock struck midnight…” and a grappling hook appears on the page turn, followed by a nimble and stealthy figure in black ably navigating every obstacle in his path. Climbing and clambering, balancing and leaping, he finally reaches his goal. Just as the ninja takes out his tools and goes to work, “Suddenly the lights flash on!” On this spread, the dusky hues and patterns utilized up to this point vanish to show an imposing hand-on-hip towering black silhouette against a glaringly bright, white background. Of course it turns out to be the child’s mother catching her little one with a spoon stuck into what appears to be a chocolate-flavored treat. With the mission for a sweet snack aborted, mother proposes, “how about a getting-back-into-bed mission?”

This relatively gentle tale celebrating the power of imagination fails to cover new territory but is executed quite well. Good to share at bedtime with antsy adventurers but too subdued a choice for die-hard Ninjago fans. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-20384-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2012

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Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug.

THE HUG

What to do when you’re a prickly animal hankering for a hug? Why, find another misfit animal also searching for an embrace!

Sweet but “tricky to hug” little Hedgehog is down in the dumps. Wandering the forest, Hedgehog begs different animals for hugs, but each rejects them. Readers will giggle at their panicked excuses—an evasive squirrel must suddenly count its three measly acorns; a magpie begins a drawn-out song—but will also be indignant on poor hedgehog’s behalf. Hedgehog has the appealingly pink-cheeked softness typical of Dunbar’s art, and the gentle watercolors are nonthreatening, though she also captures the animals’ genuine concern about being poked. A wise owl counsels the dejected hedgehog that while the prickles may frighten some, “there’s someone for everyone.” That’s when Hedgehog spots a similarly lonely tortoise, rejected due to its “very hard” shell but perfectly matched for a spiky new friend. They race toward each other until the glorious meeting, marked with swoony peach swirls and overjoyed grins. At this point, readers flip the book to hear the same gloomy tale from the tortoise’s perspective until it again culminates in that joyous hug, a book turn that’s made a pleasure with thick creamy paper and solid binding.

Watching unlikely friends finally be as “happy as two someones can be” feels like being enveloped in your very own hug. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-571-34875-6

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Faber & Faber

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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This pair of Spanish friends should find fans in the States. (Picture book. 3-5)

THE SCARY WIND

From the Hedgehog and Rabbit series

Are those swirling leaves…or a monster!?

Rabbit is eating cabbages in the garden while, nearby, Hedgehog searches for snails. A sudden wind comes up, stirring the colorful leaves, causing them to swirl in the air. Frightened, Rabbit screams and hides in a hollow log; Hedgehog follows him to find out what’s wrong. Shivering, Rabbit declares that there’s a big howling monster after them. When leaves blow into their hiding place, both animals panic and flee in opposite directions. After some running, both Rabbit and Hedgehog feel bad for leaving a friend alone with the scary beast and decide to return to help. Rabbit first adopts a disguise, smearing himself with mud and tying two branches onto his head to look like horns. Hedgehog rolls in a pile of colorful leaves and picks up two sticks to look like claws. When the two friends confront each other, they are scared all over again and run away…all over again. The running itself makes the disguises blow away, and before long the friends are reunited, eating in the garden as the wind continues to blow. Storyteller Albo offers straightforwardly simple silliness for the very young, who should love the heightened emotions and the repetition. Gómez makes both Rabbit and Hedgehog highly expressive; most compositions are uncluttered, and tiny details will keep children engaged. Series companion The Stubborn Cloud publishes simultaneously.

This pair of Spanish friends should find fans in the States. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-84-945971-7-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: nubeOCHO

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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