Transparent moralizing.

READ REVIEW

JOY THE ELF

When Mateo’s favorite elf—the titular Joy—disappears, his search involves an encounter with the Ragdoll Witch.

Mateo has often seen Joy in such places as Daddy’s beard and “the brum-brum-brum of Grandma and Grampa’s car when they came to see him.” Mateo, who has a fringe of orange hair and no apparent chin, learns from his fish that the Ragdoll Witch was “sick of that pestering pixie.” The witch, whose stylized appearance includes traditional black gown and pointy hat, plus hairy legs, is featured vertically on a double-page-spread as she casts a spell that will enable Mateo to acquire—immediately—anything he wishes for. When his wished-for tablet, roller skates, and dragon appear, Joy begins fading to nothingness. A green-haired fairy produces a counterspell so that Mateo’s wishes are only partially granted: He gets an outing with his grandparents instead of a mountain bike, a book instead of a video game, and, instead of a mansion for his favorite action figure, “his mommy and daddy helped him build a giant house out of old cartons.” Will this make Joy reappear? Perhaps something was lost in the translation from Spanish, as this is a story that even preschoolers will find annoying and sappy. Some of the collaged art is interesting, but much of it is as lackluster as the text. All characters present as white.

Transparent moralizing. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-84-946926-1-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: nubeOCHO

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations.

I BELIEVE I CAN

Diversity is the face of this picture book designed to inspire confidence in children.

Fans of Byers and Bobo’s I Am Enough (2018) will enjoy this book that comes with a universal message of self-acceptance. A line of children practices ballet at the barre; refreshingly, two of the four are visibly (and adorably) pudgy. Another group tends a couple of raised beds; one of them wears hijab. Two more children coax a trepidatious friend down a steep slide. Further images, of children pretending to be pirates, dragons, mimes, playing superhero and soccer, and cooking, are equally endearing, but unfortunately they don’t add enough heft to set the book apart from other empowerment books for children. Though the illustrations shine, the text remains pedagogic and bland. Clichés abound: “When I believe in myself, there’s simply nothing I can’t do”; “Sometimes I am right, and sometimes I am wrong. / But even when I make mistakes, I learn from them to make me strong.” The inclusion of children with varying abilities, religions, genders, body types, and racial presentations creates an inviting tone that makes the book palatable. It’s hard to argue with the titular sentiment, but this is not the only book of its ilk on the shelf.

Banal affirmation buoyed by charming illustrations. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266713-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for...

OLIVER AND HIS EGG

Oliver, of first-day-of-school alligator fame, is back, imagining adventures and still struggling to find balance between introversion and extroversion.

“When Oliver found his egg…” on the playground, mint-green backgrounds signifying Oliver’s flight into fancy slowly grow larger until they take up entire spreads; Oliver’s creature, white and dinosaurlike with orange polka dots, grows larger with them. Their adventures include sharing treats, sailing the seas and going into outer space. A classmate’s yell brings him back to reality, where readers see him sitting on top of a rock. Even considering Schmid’s scribbly style, readers can almost see the wheels turning in his head as he ponders the girl and whether or not to give up his solitary play. “But when Oliver found his rock… // Oliver imagined many adventures // with all his friends!” This last is on a double gatefold that opens to show the children enjoying the creature’s slippery curves. A final wordless spread depicts all the children sitting on rocks, expressions gleeful, wondering, waiting, hopeful. The illustrations, done in pastel pencil and digital color, again make masterful use of white space and page turns, although this tale is not nearly as funny or tongue-in-cheek as Oliver and His Alligator (2013), nor is its message as clear and immediately accessible to children.

Still, this young boy’s imagination is a powerful force for helping him deal with life, something that should be true for all children but sadly isn’t. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-7573-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2014

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