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BO THE BRAVE

Here be no dragons.

A little sister follows her two older brothers out into the big world of monster-hunting.

Bo lives with Erik and Ivar in a castle. The boys, lofty hunters setting out to catch an unspecified monster, scoff at Bo’s request to come along. Undeterred, she sneaks out of the castle after they’re gone “to catch a monster of her own.” She encounters a series of creatures—griffin, kraken, dragon—each of which she initially assumes is a monster but realizes is not. Bo learns quickly that the unfamiliar creatures (one of whom is a parent and therefore explicitly adult) not only are not monsters, but are so harmless that she can let them literally carry her. Being polite, offering directions, or needing a child’s help are the signals that immediately prove their trustworthiness, which may horrify safety-minded adults thinking about stranger danger. Child readers won’t care, but nor will they find vigor in Bo’s tale. The prose is tepid: “These creatures are helpful and nice and caring. We shouldn’t be hunting them!” The illustrations, done in gray, pink, teal, and dull orange, have a flattened perspective that gives this “land of mountains and forests” a compressed, two-dimensional sameness to each spread. Limited palettes are sometimes gems, but this one—lacking saturation changes or compositional zest—only continues the sameness as pages turn. Football-shaped eyes barely vary with expression; the humans are white as paper.

Here be no dragons. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: April 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68263-182-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Dec. 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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IZZY GIZMO AND THE INVENTION CONVENTION

From the Izzy Gizmo series

A disappointing follow-up.

Inventor Izzy Gizmo is back in this sequel to her eponymous debut (2017).

While busily inventing one day, Izzy receives an invitation from the Genius Guild to their annual convention. Though Izzy’s “inventions…don’t always work,” Grandpa (apparently her sole caregiver) encourages her to go. The next day they undertake a long journey “over fields, hills, and waves” and “mile after mile” to isolated Technoff Isle. There, Izzy finds she must compete against four other kids to create the most impressive machine. The colorful, detail-rich illustrations chronicle how poor Izzy is thwarted at every turn by Abi von Lavish, a Veruca Salt–esque character who takes all the supplies for herself. But when Abi abandons her project, Izzy salvages the pieces and decides to take Grandpa’s advice to create a machine that “can really be put to good use.” A frustrated Izzy’s impatience with a friend almost foils her chance at the prize, but all’s well that ends well. There’s much to like: Brown-skinned inventor girl Izzy is an appealing character, it’s great to see a nurturing brown-skinned male caregiver, the idea of an “Invention Convention” is fun, and a sustainable-energy invention is laudable. However, these elements don’t make up for rhymes that often feel forced and a lackluster story.

A disappointing follow-up. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68263-164-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Peachtree

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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HEY, DUCK!

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.

A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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