From the Pierre & Paul series

Educational content made entertaining.

Two friends battle a dragon and hunt for treasure in this bilingual adventure story of imaginative play.

Paul, a pale-skinned redhead with freckles, and Pierre, a brown-skinned boy with tight curls, are “friends and explorers.” They draw a treasure map, which they bring with them to take out the garbage. When they hear a roar, they use swords (sticks and rolled-up paper) and shields (a pizza box and the garbage-can lid) to defend themselves against a dragon, which is drawn on the page in Harold and the Purple Crayon fashion. Paul dies in the great battle but is revived by a lick from a passerby’s dog. The friends escape a poisonous swamp and arrive at the ocean. They take to sea on a boat but must swim to shore when a tsunami hits. The illustrations alternate between the real world inside and outside of Paul’s house in a city neighborhood, with pale, subdued backgrounds, and the fleshed-out world of the children’s imaginations, with playful transitions between the two. The blend of English and French in the text is a clever way to support bilingualism. Rather than repeating the same sentences in both languages, the story works like an early reader whose sentences alternate languages but repeat vocabulary words: “Suddenly they hear a roar. Un grand rugissement!” This allows both bilingual readers and second language learners to engage with the vocabulary in both languages without stopping the flow of the story. The pictures also support comprehension.

Educational content made entertaining. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: April 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-77147-328-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Owlkids Books

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021


Charming and thought-provoking proof that we all contain multitudes.

Oscar winner McConaughey offers intriguing life observations.

The series of pithy, wry comments, each starting with the phrase “Just because,” makes clear that each of us is a mass of contradictions: “Just because we’re friends, / doesn’t mean you can’t burn me. / Just because I’m stubborn, / doesn’t mean that you can’t turn me.” Witty, digitally rendered vignettes portray youngsters diverse in terms of race and ability (occasionally with pets looking on) dealing with everything from friendship drama to a nerve-wracking footrace. “Just because I’m dirty, / doesn’t mean I can’t get clean” is paired with an image of a youngster taking a bath while another character (possibly an older sibling) sits nearby, smiling. “Just because you’re nice, / doesn’t mean you can’t get mean” depicts the older one berating the younger one for tracking mud into the house. The artwork effectively brings to life the succinct, rhyming text and will help readers make sense of it. Perhaps, after studying the illustrations and gaining further insight into the comments, kids will reread and reflect upon them further. The final page unites the characters from earlier pages with a reassuring message for readers: “Just because the sun has set, / doesn’t mean it will not rise. / Because every day is a gift, / each one a new surprise. BELIEVE IT.” As a follow-up, readers should be encouraged to make their own suggestions to complete the titular phrase. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Charming and thought-provoking proof that we all contain multitudes. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9780593622032

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023


From the How To Catch… series

Only for dedicated fans of the series.

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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