This playful frolic in tropical waters is a gentle introduction to the concept of chosen identity and respect for others’...

IS IT A MERMAID?

When Benji and Bel spot an unusual creature on the beach one morning, Benji knows exactly what it is: a dugong. The dugong, however, has a differing opinion.

Not only does the sassy sea mammal take umbrage with being called “it,” she also corrects Benji’s initial assumption. On a double-page spread showcasing her wide gray body, flippers, and short snout, she proclaims, “I am a beautiful mermaid!” Bel is quietly supportive, but when Benji continues to point out all her dugong parts and calls her a sea cow, his negativity finally penetrates, and she bursts into tears. “Benji felt terrible.” He realizes that his words have hurt the dugong and he apologizes. Luckily, though “mermaids are a bit sensitive,” they are also “very forgiving,” and the three spend the rest of the day frolicking in the sea with a host of whimsical and colorful sea animals. Young readers will enjoy inhabiting this tropical world infused with fanciful creatures (mermaid or not), and the message of respecting another’s chosen identities is both clear and gentle. Chessa’s illustrations depict little brown-skinned Benji and Bel with childlike exuberance, and a lovely spread at the end of the day highlights the tropical landscape, framing the dugong swimming off—or is that a mermaid’s tail?

This playful frolic in tropical waters is a gentle introduction to the concept of chosen identity and respect for others’ choices. (author’s note) (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-91095-912-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Otter-Barry

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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Likely to cause some imaginative prancing among unicorn and kitty lovers.

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ITTY-BITTY KITTY-CORN

Is Kitty only a kitten? Or might she be a noble unicorn?

Inspired by the unicorn on her poster, Kitty crafts a perfect horn and admires herself in the mirror. She feels “unicorn-y.” Her friends disagree. “ ‘You’re not a unicorn, putty-pie,’ says Parakeet. / ‘You’re curled up like a cat, fluffy-fry,’ says Gecko.” So Kitty uncurls to prance and gallop, but her detractors point out her tiny tail. With some effort she plumps it up. They tell her she will never be a unicorn because she meows like a cat; this, of course, prompts her to let out a loud “NEIGH!” Parakeet and Gecko are having none of it, each time varying their mild name-calling. As the sun dips low, Kitty’s sure her long shadow looks like a unicorn’s—until a real unicorn clops into view. Gecko and Parakeet are impressed, and Kitty feels insignificant. But this unicorn has a secret…a pair of fluffy, pink kitty ears the same pink as Kitty’s. They can be kitty-corns together, best friends. Unicorn fans will definitely identify with Hale’s protagonist and respond well to Pham’s bright cartoons, laid out as spot illustrations that pop against the mostly all-white backgrounds. The way Kitty’s friends dismissively poke fun with their name-calling may give some readers pause, but the be-true-to-the-inner-you message and the expressive characterizations add appeal. (This book was reviewed digitally with 12-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 51.2% of actual size.)

Likely to cause some imaginative prancing among unicorn and kitty lovers. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4197-5091-5

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Young readers will hunt out this enjoyable crowd pleaser again and again.

WE'RE GOING ON A GOON HUNT

Hunt for a bear? That’s so yesterday.

On a spooky Halloween night, we’re hunting for…a green GOON. We’re not really scared. Let’s start in a pumpkin patch. We can’t go over or under it, so we’ll just go through it. We’ll do the same in other likely goon hideouts: a swamp, a tunnel, a forest, a graveyard, and, finally, a haunted house. In this atmospheric “petrifying parody” of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, a dad and his four kids, dressed in Halloween finery and accompanied by their costumed pup, search for the elusive quarry. They become more frightened (particularly dad and pooch, even from the outset) as they proceed along the increasingly murky path—except for the youngest, unicorn-outfitted child, who squeals a delighted welcome to whatever creature unexpectedly materializes. As in the classic original, evocative sound effects (“Gurgle hiss, gurgle hiss, gurgle hiss!”) ring out as the quintet moves through each hazard. Unsurprisingly, the group locates the goon, forcing them to retrace their steps home in a frenzied hurry, odd noises and all. They reach safety to discover…uh-oh! Meanwhile, someone’s missing but having a ball! Even readers who’ve never read or heard about the bear expedition will appreciate this clever, comical, fast-paced take. The colorful line illustrations are humorously brooding and sweetly endearing, with the family (all members present White) portrayed as growing steadily apprehensive. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.5-by-20.8-inch double-page spreads viewed at 74.6% of actual size.)

Young readers will hunt out this enjoyable crowd pleaser again and again. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984813-62-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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