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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A wandering effort, happy but pointless.

DRAGONS LOVE TACOS

From the Dragons Love Tacos series

The perfect book for kids who love dragons and mild tacos.

Rubin’s story starts with an incantatory edge: “Hey, kid! Did you know that dragons love tacos? They love beef tacos and chicken tacos. They love really big gigantic tacos and tiny little baby tacos as well.” The playing field is set: dragons, tacos. As a pairing, they are fairly silly, and when the kicker comes in—that dragons hate spicy salsa, which ignites their inner fireworks—the silliness is sillier still. Second nature, after all, is for dragons to blow flames out their noses. So when the kid throws a taco party for the dragons, it seems a weak device that the clearly labeled “totally mild” salsa comes with spicy jalapenos in the fine print, prompting the dragons to burn down the house, resulting in a barn-raising at which more tacos are served. Harmless, but if there is a parable hidden in the dragon-taco tale, it is hidden in the unlit deep, and as a measure of lunacy, bridled or unbridled, it doesn’t make the leap into the outer reaches of imagination. Salmieri’s artwork is fitting, with a crabbed, ethereal line work reminiscent of Peter Sís, but the story does not offer it enough range.

A wandering effort, happy but pointless. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3680-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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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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