Conceptual and thoughtful, like Niko’s own pieces.


A boy finds ample artistic inspiration, but people find his artwork baffling.

Niko’s art has atypical subject matter. He is excited by “a mother bird building a nest.…Or the ice cream truck ring-a-linging down the street,” but he doesn’t draw the physical things he sees. He draws the robin’s hard work and the ice cream truck’s sound. “Where’s the robin?” asks his teacher, and then, puzzled, “So this is the nest?” Niko tries to explain: “It’s not the nest. It’s her hard work.” Similarly, the kids find neither ice cream truck nor bell in his picture, because “It’s not the bell. It’s the ring-a-ling.” Even his parents don’t get it. His drawing of “the warm of the sun on my face” elicits the question, “Where’s your face?” “It’s not my face. It’s the warm,” Niko says, dejected. While Shin’s child-style portrayals of Niko’s abstract drawings wouldn’t be definable by readers without Niko’s explanation, that’s hardly the point; the point is finding one person who appreciates his abstract work—a new neighbor—and Niko’s freedom to draw nonrepresentationally. The mixed-media illustrations, which include digital rendering and acrylic paint, are gentle and two-dimensional; their colors lean toward tertiaries and blue-grays. Niko has ruddy pink skin and black hair; his dad is brown-skinned, and his mom is probably Asian.

Conceptual and thoughtful, like Niko’s own pieces. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: April 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4677-9843-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Carolrhoda

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends


From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.


From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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