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A blast.

A practiced thief takes an unusual approach to stealing a treasure, with unexpected results.

Wilker’s language crackles and snaps in this brief but hilarious rhyming tale of a bank heist gone awry. Jack (“wisecracker, firecracker, knucklecracking crook”) is a safecracker with his eye on a particularly difficult safe “no other nut could crack.” Readers will notice that Jack’s plan begins before the title page, with Jack setting out a trail of crackers for a mallard drake. Jack’s plan? He trains the duck in the lighting of firecrackers and then smuggles it, concealed in a sack along with a supply of firecrackers, into the vault as a bank deposit. When the door blows off that night, however, Jack is knocked out—and nabbed for the crime—while the wily duck goes free to plan another caper: a satisfying comeuppance for such nervy, bad behavior on Jack’s part. Tremblay’s cartoon art is big and bold, filled with color and pattern, her characters a wonderfully goofy accompaniment to the text. Jack has light brown hair and lighter skin and wears a black burglar’s mask, his eyes big and round (as are the duck’s), like wheels with their center black dot for a pupil. The font is large and clear; great for early readers who will find the memorable rhymes easy to spot on the page.

A blast. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77147-244-9

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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From the Once Upon a World series

A nice but not requisite purchase.

A retelling of the classic fairy tale in board-book format and with a Mexican setting.

Though simplified for a younger audience, the text still relates the well-known tale: mean-spirited stepmother, spoiled stepsisters, overworked Cinderella, fairy godmother, glass slipper, charming prince, and, of course, happily-ever-after. What gives this book its flavor is the artwork. Within its Mexican setting, the characters are olive-skinned and dark-haired. Cultural references abound, as when a messenger comes carrying a banner announcing a “FIESTA” in beautiful papel picado. Cinderella is the picture of beauty, with her hair up in ribbons and flowers and her typically Mexican many-layered white dress. The companion volume, Snow White, set in Japan and illustrated by Misa Saburi, follows the same format. The simplified text tells the story of the beautiful princess sent to the forest by her wicked stepmother to be “done away with,” the dwarves that take her in, and, eventually, the happily-ever-after ending. Here too, what gives the book its flavor is the artwork. The characters wear traditional clothing, and the dwarves’ house has the requisite shoji screens, tatami mats and cherry blossoms in the garden. The puzzling question is, why the board-book presentation? Though the text is simplified, it’s still beyond the board-book audience, and the illustrations deserve full-size books.

A nice but not requisite purchase. (Board book/fairy tale. 3-5)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7915-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017

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Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children.

On hot summer nights, Amani’s parents permit her to go outside and play in the apartment courtyard, where the breeze is cool and her friends are waiting.

The children jump rope to the sounds of music as it floats through a neighbor’s window, gaze at stars in the night sky, and play hide-and-seek in the moonlight. It is in the moonlight that Amani and her friends are themselves found by the moon, and it illumines the many shades of their skin, which vary from light tan to deep brown. In a world where darkness often evokes ideas of evil or fear, this book is a celebration of things that are dark and beautiful—like a child’s dark skin and the night in which she plays. The lines “Show everyone else how to embrace the night like you. Teach them how to be a night-owning girl like you” are as much an appeal for her to love and appreciate her dark skin as they are the exhortation for Amani to enjoy the night. There is a sense of security that flows throughout this book. The courtyard is safe and homelike. The moon, like an additional parent, seems to be watching the children from the sky. The charming full-bleed illustrations, done in washes of mostly deep blues and greens, make this a wonderful bedtime story.

Vital messages of self-love for darker-skinned children. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55271-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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