Timely, with relevance to today’s difficult Ukrainian struggle as history is repeated.


A child learns of her Ukrainian grandmother’s terrifying escape as a child.

Baba kneads dough for bread and tells her granddaughter, Karina, light-skinned and brown-haired, the story of a little girl living in a Ukrainian village. The soldiers of the Soviet army, portrayed as monsters, invade, first taking the villagers’ grain (a note at the beginning describes Holodomor, a famine caused by the Soviet Communist Party that resulted in 14.5 million deaths), then imprisoning families, including the little girl’s, in a camp in Siberia, where children are separated from their parents. One day the children discover matryoshka dolls beneath their mattresses; the fifth dolls contain messages of a rescue plan. At dawn, while their captors are at a campwide meeting, the children are ushered away through the forest, then onto a waiting train. Baba reveals that she was the little girl—and is now “a happy old lady, kneading bread dough and telling a true story to her granddaughter.” Beautiful, detailed illustrations bring to life an old-world village with a thatched roof cottage. As the invasion approaches, dark, foreboding scenes dominate with frightening depictions of soldiers with sharp-angled faces in silhouette, holding spearlike rifles. The matryoshka dolls are colorfully limned, a bright source in the darkness. This is an ugly historical moment of destruction told expeditiously, concluding with a decisive and constructive outcome for an earlier generation of Ukrainian children. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Timely, with relevance to today’s difficult Ukrainian struggle as history is repeated. (Historical picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4788-7581-9

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Reycraft Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: today

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.


Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A second scintillating celebration of personal style and dad-daughter DIY.


From the Sparkella series , Vol. 2

Reality puts only a temporary damper on big, glittery plans for a sleepover castle.

New school friend Tam, who shared bánh mi at lunch in The One and Only Sparkella (2021), is arriving in two hours, and before that Sparkella needs to make a castle “fit for two royal highnesses.” Unfortunately, even with Dad’s help, the flimsy cardboard construction collapses as soon as Sparkella climbs inside to test it. What to do? After giving the pouting princess some personal time in the garage, Dad points the way: “I think you have to take what you have and make it SPARKLE like only you can.” And, indeed, by the time brown-skinned “Tam, Queen of Kittens” is dropped off by her grandma, a pair of folding tables have been transformed with paint, wrapping paper, and colorful fabrics into the sparkliest castle ever! Laying on saturated colors and sprays of tiny stars with a lavish hand, Barnes depicts the two young “royals” in flamboyantly decorated settings—even Dad’s motorcycle is a dazzling confection awash in bows, and Dad himself, light-skinned like Sparkella, isn’t the least decorative element considering his fondness for sporting a purple boa and outrageous eyewear when occasion demands. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A second scintillating celebration of personal style and dad-daughter DIY. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-75076-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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