A page-turner of an adventure story about challenging preconceived notions and building empathy and compassion.


Once upon a time, a long time ago, Freya and Sylas lived in a village in a magic kingdom where everyone feared a dragon.

Although it isn’t clear if any villagers have actually met the dragon, rumor has it that the beast is heartless, ruthless, and cruel. Unlike their fellow villagers, Freya and Sylas find the dragon fascinating as well as terrifying. The children spend hours together reading stories about the dragon, becoming dragon experts, each reassuring the other that they are interested but not afraid. When an enormous snowstorm freezes the village, Freya and Sylas are sure that the dragon is to blame. Together, they decide to scale the mountain near their village where the dragon supposedly lives—something that, in their entire village, only they are courageous enough to attempt. But when they finally reach the dragon, Freya and Sylas get a surprise: It turns out that the dragon is nothing like what anyone in their village imagined. Could it be, Freya and Sylas wonder, that the dragon isn’t evil at all? This sweet tale of adventure, courage, and compassion is a warmhearted reminder of the dangers of stereotypes and the power of perspective and hope. The manga-style illustrations are colorful and detailed—full of whimsical touches—perfectly complementing the fairy-tale–inspired prose. The story’s moral, while clear, is more lighthearted than preachy, rendering the happy ending entirely satisfying. Freya has light-brown skin and poufy brown hair; Sylas has pale skin and black hair in a topknot. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.3-by-18.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 32.1% of actual size.)

A page-turner of an adventure story about challenging preconceived notions and building empathy and compassion. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-27242-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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A wandering effort, happy but pointless.


From the Dragons Love Tacos series

The perfect book for kids who love dragons and mild tacos.

Rubin’s story starts with an incantatory edge: “Hey, kid! Did you know that dragons love tacos? They love beef tacos and chicken tacos. They love really big gigantic tacos and tiny little baby tacos as well.” The playing field is set: dragons, tacos. As a pairing, they are fairly silly, and when the kicker comes in—that dragons hate spicy salsa, which ignites their inner fireworks—the silliness is sillier still. Second nature, after all, is for dragons to blow flames out their noses. So when the kid throws a taco party for the dragons, it seems a weak device that the clearly labeled “totally mild” salsa comes with spicy jalapenos in the fine print, prompting the dragons to burn down the house, resulting in a barn-raising at which more tacos are served. Harmless, but if there is a parable hidden in the dragon-taco tale, it is hidden in the unlit deep, and as a measure of lunacy, bridled or unbridled, it doesn’t make the leap into the outer reaches of imagination. Salmieri’s artwork is fitting, with a crabbed, ethereal line work reminiscent of Peter Sís, but the story does not offer it enough range.

A wandering effort, happy but pointless. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3680-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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Inspiring, if all these pinkie promises don’t get in the way.


Lately, everyone seems intent on telling Polly what girls can’t do.

Whether it’s fixing a leak, building a model drawbridge, or washing a car, it seems like the world thinks that girls aren’t able to do anything. Polly is discouraged until she goes to a political rally with her mother. There, the two meet a White woman named Elizabeth (recognizably author Warren in Chua’s friendly illustrations) who’s running for president. She tells Polly that she is running because that’s what girls do: They lead. Polly and Elizabeth make a pinky promise to remember this truth. Polly decides that being a girl can’t prevent her from doing whatever she wants. Even though she’s a bit intimidated at attending a brand-new school, Polly decides to be brave—because that’s what girls do, and she makes a pinkie promise with her mom. At soccer, she’s under pressure to score the winning goal. She makes a pinkie promise with her coach to do her best, because that’s what girls do. And so on. By the end of the book, Polly ignores what she’s been told that girls can’t do and totally focuses on what they can do: absolutely anything they want. In the illustrations, Polly and her family have dark skin and straight, dark hair. The narrative is inspiring and child friendly, although the constant return to making pinkie promises feels like a distraction from the central message. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Inspiring, if all these pinkie promises don’t get in the way. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-80102-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Godwin Books/Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 11, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

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