Spellbinding read-aloud gold.

READ REVIEW

DO YOU BELIEVE IN UNICORNS?

Is it a unicorn or a horse in a hat? It’s up to readers to decide!

A matter-of-fact narrator presents all the reasons why a “horse in a hat” is really just that. It couldn’t possibly be a unicorn. Or could it? As the “horse” trots along, readers will notice other “horses” in the scenery, their heads—and, more importantly, what could possibly be their horns—obfuscated by some detail (a rock, a tree, etc.). Readers may side with the narrator, but soon, the visual evidence seems to contradict the verbal. Even the narrator waffles in their certainty. When a page turn reveals abandoned “horse” hats, the mystery is almost solved. Or is it? Though “horns” clearly crown the “horses’ ” heads in subsequent spreads, they could also be a part of the background (a spire, blades of grass, etc.). The final conclusion in the debate ultimately rests on the readers’ own deductive reasoning. As coy as Jon Klassen, Murguia is a master of subtlety. The interplay between narration and illustration proves the unreliability of the senses, sharing just enough to keep the magic (and doubt) alive. Murguia’s muted pen-and-ink–and-watercolor illustrations, presented almost entirely on double-page spreads, create a lush cartoon world. Careful readers might notice a final hint in the form of a lizard that just might be a dragon—a brilliant punctuation mark to this open-ended story.

Spellbinding read-aloud gold. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9468-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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A wandering effort, happy but pointless.

DRAGONS LOVE TACOS

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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A slim, feel-good story, as light and airy as the rainbows that grace its pages.

NOT QUITE NARWHAL

Being true to yourself means embracing differences and striding (or paddling) fearlessly into the world.

Emerging from a giant clam, baby unicorn Kelp lives among narwhals, believing he’s just not as good as everyone else at swimming, appreciating a squid dinner, or breathing underwater (he sports a glass diving helmet—with a gasket-encircled hole for his horn). Swept close to shore one day, he spies for the first time an adult unicorn and, struck by the resemblance to himself, totters onto solid ground. The “land narwhals” explain to him that they—and he—are unicorns. Kelp’s blissful new life of learning to do special unicorn things amid sparkles and rainbows is punctuated by sadness over the narwhal friends he left behind. Upon returning to his watery home, Kelp learns that the narwhals knew all along that he was actually a unicorn. Following a brief internal tussle over where he truly belongs, Kelp recognizes that he doesn’t have to be just one thing or another and happily unites his friends at the shoreline. As seen in Sima’s soft, digital illustrations, Kelp is adorable, and she evokes both undersea and aboveground environments artfully. The message is an appealing one that could speak to many family situations relating to multiple identities, but the central dilemma is resolved so quickly and easily that there is little room for emotional engagement.

A slim, feel-good story, as light and airy as the rainbows that grace its pages. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6909-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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