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From the Tales from the Hidden Valley series , Vol. 2

Delightful. (Picture book. 3-8)

The second book in the Tales from the Hidden Valley picture-book series, translated from Spanish, sets the storybook tone by repeating its predecessor’s lead-in paragraph, then moves into its winter-setting story.

Maximilian Cold, “child of the richest…coldest family in town” wants to be a musician, so his horrified family disowns him. Then “The Band” he joins, disliking his musical improvisations, fires him. He hops a train, and the other musical hobos literally throw him out. Sheltering in a cave, he finds the floor giving way underneath him, and he slides amid “fossils and precious stones” to another world—the world Yula and the other anthropomorphic animals of The Artists (2018) inhabit. Porta’s whimsy shines as his impeccable design and fanciful illustrations are aided and abetted by the droll text. The tiny, onion-headed magical ballerina met previously (now delightfully called “Onion-head”) finds the shivering Maxi and dresses him in so many layers of winter clothes that he looks like a big “Thing.” The Thing inadvertently scares Yula (who was walking to Sara’s), and she faints. Concerned, Maxi carries her to a hollow tree. A watching raven becomes alarmed and flies off to tell Sara, who notifies her quirky friends, and they come up with a madcap scheme to drive Maxi away. All ends well, though, presented so matter-of-factly that readers will have no concerns that Maxi and the animals won’t become great friends. Maxi, the only human in the Hidden Valley, presents white.

Delightful. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-911171-56-0

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Flying Eye Books

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

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Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Bewitched by the rhythms of jazz all around her in Depression-era Kansas City, little Melba Doretta Liston longs to make music in this fictional account of a little-known jazz great.

Picking up the trombone at 7, the little girl teaches herself to play with the support of her Grandpa John and Momma Lucille, performing on the radio at 8 and touring as a pro at just 17. Both text and illustrations make it clear that it’s not all easy for Melba; “The Best Service for WHITES ONLY” reads a sign in a hotel window as the narrative describes a bigotry-plagued tour in the South with Billie Holiday. But joy carries the day, and the story ends on a high note, with Melba “dazzling audiences and making headlines” around the world. Russell-Brown’s debut text has an innate musicality, mixing judicious use of onomatopoeia with often sonorous prose. Morrison’s sinuous, exaggerated lines are the perfect match for Melba’s story; she puts her entire body into her playing, the exaggerated arch of her back and thrust of her shoulders mirroring the curves of her instrument. In one thrilling spread, the evening gown–clad instrumentalist stands over the male musicians, her slide crossing the gutter while the back bow disappears off the page to the left. An impressive discography complements a two-page afterword and a thorough bibliography.

Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60060-898-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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