An aquatic tale provides a sensitive environmental message, beautiful illustrations, and a relatable heroine.



A young girl discovers the importance of ocean conservation and her connection to all life during a magical adventure under the sea.

In her idyllic home near the ocean, a girl named Umijoo devours, “as quick as blinking,” the fish dinner that her father has prepared for her, prompting him to remind her that “food is more than just a dish. / There’s time and life and sacrifice / behind each bite of rice and fish.” In this lovely, large-format, rhyming picture book for ages 9 and up by noted marine conservation activist Trenor (Sustainable Sushi, 2009), Umijoo’s father gives her a magic stone that enables her to go on an undersea journey. Before returning to shore, she will learn to appreciate the diversity of life the ocean offers and to understand how people affect it, as individual creatures speak, inviting empathy for their plight due to inhumane practices, overfishing, and pollution. In the author’s rhythmic tale, the book’s message about the need to respect and protect the health of the oceans and to understand humans’ connection to them and all life is delivered with age-appropriate clarity and graceful imagery. As Umijoo sinks deeper and deeper beneath the ocean surface, she encounters a vivid display of life in a coral reef—tiny fish “like shining seeds” and “soft rosy pink” shrimp—a school of fish who resemble “gleaming shards of shattered glass,” an octopus who poses a soulful riddle, and, in the dark abyss near the ocean floor, a monstrous but melancholy angler fish with bioluminescent appeal and “two tremendous rows of teeth that gleamed like racks of sharpened knives.” The text is stunningly realized in pop surrealist Koopman’s dreamlike paintings of ocean denizens, land flora and fauna, and Umijoo herself. Well-researched and interpreted through the debut illustrator’s unique artistic prism, these paintings (full-bleed, with many in double-page spreads) are a feast for the eyes, alive with lavish details and richly saturated colors.

An aquatic tale provides a sensitive environmental message, beautiful illustrations, and a relatable heroine.

Pub Date: March 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-73286-050-6

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Shark & Siren Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Young readers will hunt out this enjoyable crowd pleaser again and again.


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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Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun

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From the Last Kids on Earth series , Vol. 1

It’s been 42 days since the Monster Apocalypse began, and 13-year-old Jack Sullivan, a self-proclaimed “zombie-fighting, monster-slaying tornado of cool” is on a quest to find and rescue his not-so-secret crush, June Del Toro, whether she needs it, wants it, or not.

Jack cobbles together an unlikely but endearing crew, including his scientist best friend, Quint Baker; Dirk Savage, Parker Middle School’s biggest bully; and a pet monster named Rover, to help him save the damsel in distress and complete the “ULTIMATE Feat of Apocalyptic Success.” Middle-grade readers, particularly boys, will find Jack’s pitch-perfect mix of humor, bravado, and self-professed geekiness impossible to resist. His sidekicks are equally entertaining, and it doesn’t hurt that there are also plenty of oozing, drooling, sharp-toothed monsters and zombies and a host of gizmos and gadgets to hook readers and keep them cheering with every turn of the page. Holgate’s illustrations play an integral role in the novel’s success. They not only bring Brallier’s characters to life, but also add depth and detail to the story, making plain just exactly how big Rover is and giving the lie to Jack’s “killer driving.” The marriage of text and illustration serves as a perfect example of what an illustrated novel can and should be.

Classic action-packed, monster-fighting fun (. (Graphic/horror hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-670-01661-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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