A quirky new series that’s strong out of the gate.

READ REVIEW

THE MAGIC DAY

From the Sparkleton series , Vol. 1

A unicorn gains wish-granting powers—that malfunction.

Sparkleton, a young rule-hating unicorn, wants a shortcut to gaining the ability to grant wishes. His sister has that ability, though, and despite her “Goody Two-horseshoes” aversion to rule-breaking, Sparkleton successfully nags her into granting his wish for wish-granting powers of his own for a day. Delighted, he rushes off to show off his new powers to his fellow young unicorn friends. Unsurprisingly, wish after wish goes wrong in comical ways. Once Sparkleton realizes that the opposite of each wish is happening, he has his friends wish for the opposite of their wish-created problems in order to repair the damage he’s done. He finds, though, that it’s not so easy to restore the status quo. Finally, Sparkleton realizes that the wish problem is caused by his self-centered focus instead of a desire to make his wishers happy, and now he can fix the problems he’s caused. Sparkleton’s flaws make him an accessible character and offer a good source of low-stakes tension. The other unicorns are colorful and easy to differentiate in the illustrations through varied shapes and silhouettes, and his best friends in particular have strong personalities. Careful design elements, such as end-of-chapter progress markers, encourage new readers along. Book 2, The Glitter Parade, publishes simultaneously.

A quirky new series that’s strong out of the gate. (Fantasy. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-294792-5

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A heartwarming story with a bit of mystery, available in both English and Chinese.

WHO WANTS CANDIED HAWBERRIES?

In winter, an old man enters Cat’s Eye Hutong (alleyway or lane) with his bicycle, fitted with a rack filled with candied hawberry skewers, a Chinese treat.

He hopes to sell all so that he can buy medicine but first puts down a box of fish scraps in the snow. He calls for customers, but none appear. The charming, naïve watercolor-and–colored-pencil paintings begin to fill with feline images built into the architecture. Then a small child wearing a white medical mask (sometimes worn to prevent the spread of germs) buys a stick of hawberries, but as she walks off, the man notices a white tail peeking from her coat. Other young, masked buyers appear; all have tails, and one’s mask has slipped, exposing whiskers. Finally, a human girl buys the last stick, and when the old man asks her about the kids with tails, she informs him that only “Kitties have tails” but points up to cats on the rooftops all eating the red hawberry sticks. Careful readers will remember the fish left “as usual.” This book publishes simultaneously with an edition in Simplified Chinese, which features simplified characters and transliterated text in a small font directly above the characters. Backmatter includes a glossary keyed to intermediate-level readers, three-to-a-page thumbnails of the illustrations with English text, and note with cultural background (sadly missing in the English-only edition); further Chinese learning materials are available on the publisher’s website.

A heartwarming story with a bit of mystery, available in both English and Chinese. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Candied Plums

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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The Force is definitely not with this one.

STAR WARS BATTLE CRIES

CREATURES VS. ALIENS

To choruses of electronic roars, shrieks, and gabbles, licensed aliens take on licensed beasts.

Along with brief introductions and fighting-skills rating charts, Hidalgo supplies perfunctory scenarios for matchups between a Wookiee and a Sarlacc, a Tusken raider and a tauntaun, and three other pairings—inviting readers to press on designated spots to activate snatches of sound and to pick winners for each dust-up. His descriptions (“These rolling meatballs of teeth and tentacles are considered one of the most dangerous creatures in the galaxy,” he says of rathtars) are generally more colorful than Park’s recognizable but bland, flattened, cartoony figures. The tinny hoots and calls issuing from the rear cover’s tiny speaker are likewise generic, mostly interchangeable, and sound as if they were recorded in a cardboard box. The scenarios and the art are free of explicit gore or violence, but there’s a streak of cruelty in evidence, as the Ewoks are sent to saw off a wampa’s horn “for a mystical ceremony,” and the Geonosian’s task is to egg a reluctant rancor out into an arena to fight droids for the purpose of “impressing some visiting Hutts.”

The Force is definitely not with this one. (replaceable batteries, on/off switch) (Novelty. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7603-6404-8

Page Count: 24

Publisher: becker&mayer! kids

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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