A low-key love story about growing and outgrowing.

ELLIE'S DRAGON

As a girl gets bigger and older, her imaginary friend…well, gets bigger.

Spotting Scratch—“pale and luminous, with shifting rainbow colors, like oil on water”—crawling from an egg carton at the store, little Ellie makes a home for him in her bedroom dollhouse. When she’s old enough for preschool, she brings him along to be admired by her classmates (grown-ups can’t see him), and he comes along to the movies when her dad visits on weekends too. But when she turns 5 and goes to kindergarten, Scratch stays home, and as years go by he gets harder and harder to see. Finally, when Ellie turns 13, Scratch slips away…to be found wandering the streets by little Sam. In Graham’s typically restrained, softly hued cartoon scenes, Scratch grows from mouse- to bus-size but always somehow fits, even in Ellie’s cozy bedroom, without crowding. Along with Graham’s calm, abstracted expressions and the occasional piercing, tattoo, or punk hairdo, the dot-eyed human figures in street and classroom settings display subtle but visible differences in racial presentation: Ellie and her parents are White; Sam and his family are people of color. Though the story bears obvious similarities to “Puff, the Magic Dragon,” its emotions are more nuanced and contemplative than that hoary classic’s. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11.5-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 75% of actual size.)

A low-key love story about growing and outgrowing. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1113-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2020

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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 pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

I AM ENOUGH

A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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