And if readers learn a lesson about humility along the way? That’s just the icing on Unicorn’s flaming birthday cakes.

UNICORN IS MAYBE NOT SO GREAT AFTER ALL

Following Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great (2013), the extra-special equine is back for the first day of school, and he’s having trouble with the fact that he doesn’t stand out in the crowd.

Thinking quite highly of himself, Unicorn is confident on the first day, while best friend Goat suffers from “contractually obligated first-day jitters.” But later, their situations are reversed. Unicorn is chagrined that all anyone can focus on are “rubber bands that look like other things” (Shea skewers the decade-old Silly Bandz craze). Unicorn decides to regain the spotlight with a new, improved version of himself: He’ll be a “new-nicorn,” complete with rainbow wig and fake tail, colored contacts, “horn enhancer,” and an attitude and personality to match. His friends’ reactions don’t faze him in the slightest: “Why are you drawn like that?” a pig speculates metafictively. But his narcissism and lack of respect for other people’s space and boundaries mean he tromps (sometimes literally) all over his peers. “Go home, Unicorn!” A depressed and depressing day at home ends with the doorbell: Unicorn’s friends have missed him even though he’s “been super-annoying.” Hysterical side commentary and even funnier details in the cartoon illustrations will keep readers coming back again and again for more of Shea’s irreverent, tongue-in-cheek humor.

And if readers learn a lesson about humility along the way? That’s just the icing on Unicorn’s flaming birthday cakes. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-00944-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Sweet, good-hearted fun.

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THE SOUR GRAPE

From the Food Group series

A recovering curmudgeon narrates life lessons in the latest entry in the punny Food Group series.

Grape wasn’t always sour, as they explain in this origin story. Grape’s arc starts with an idyllic childhood within “a close-knit bunch” in a community of “about three thousand.” The sweet-to-sour switch begins when Grape plans an elaborate birthday party to which no one shows up. Going from “sweet” to “bitter,” “snappy,” and, finally, “sour,” Grape “scowled so much that my face got all squishy.” Minor grudges become major. An aha moment occurs when a run of bad luck makes Grape three hours late for a meetup with best friend Lenny, who’s just as acidic as Grape. After the irate lemon storms off, Grape recognizes their own behavior in Lenny. Alone, Grape begins to enjoy the charms of a lovely evening. Once home, the fruit browses through a box of memorabilia, discovering that the old birthday party invitation provided the wrong date! “I realized nobody’s perfect. Not even me.” Remaining pages reverse the downturn as Grape observes that minor setbacks are easily weathered when the emphasis is on talking, listening, and working things out. Oswald’s signature illustrations depict Grape and company with big eyes and tiny limbs. The best sight gag occurs early: Grape’s grandparents are depicted as elegant raisins. The lessons are as valuable as in previous outings, and kids won’t mind the slight preachiness. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Sweet, good-hearted fun. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-304541-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2022

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While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of...

ON THE FIRST DAY OF KINDERGARTEN

Rabe follows a young girl through her first 12 days of kindergarten in this book based on the familiar Christmas carol.

The typical firsts of school are here: riding the bus, making friends, sliding on the playground slide, counting, sorting shapes, laughing at lunch, painting, singing, reading, running, jumping rope, and going on a field trip. While the days are given ordinal numbers, the song skips the cardinal numbers in the verses, and the rhythm is sometimes off: “On the second day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / making lots of friends / and riding the bus to my school!” The narrator is a white brunette who wears either a tunic or a dress each day, making her pretty easy to differentiate from her classmates, a nice mix in terms of race; two students even sport glasses. The children in the ink, paint, and collage digital spreads show a variety of emotions, but most are happy to be at school, and the surroundings will be familiar to those who have made an orientation visit to their own schools.

While this is a fairly bland treatment compared to Deborah Lee Rose and Carey Armstrong-Ellis’ The Twelve Days of Kindergarten (2003), it basically gets the job done. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 21, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-234834-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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