Simplistic wish fulfillment unlikely to move or comfort similarly marginalized kids.


Outsiders bond at Miss Blubber’s School for Arctic Mammals.

Not being seals like their teacher and the rest of their classmates, and bad at sports to boot, Neville the narwhal and Wilfred the walrus lead socially isolated lives (they don’t even like each other much)—until the arrival of new student Betty Beluga…who excels at everything but keeps to herself. Being, as Smouha puts it, “smitten,” Neville tries to impress Betty with a soccer-ball trick, but Wilfred torpedoes the effort. All three proceed to play hide-and-seek, and then, after Betty rejects a demand to pick one over the other (“I don’t need any rescuing and I don’t want a boyfriend thank you very much”), become “firm” friends who never again fret about fitting in. Ta-da! Bunnell illustrates this sketchy tale with chalky views of rotund sea creatures in chairs, on a soccer field, and like minimally detailed settings. The seals are all a uniform gray; Neville and Wilfred are, respectively, mustard and blue; Betty is a dazzling white…which gives the closing observation that “Wilfred and Neville and Betty were not like the other kids in Miss Blubber’s class” potentially uncomfortable overtones. Considering that the seals all look pretty much alike aside from the odd hat or scarf, it’s also more exclusionary than otherwise, which begs the final “And that was just fine.”

Simplistic wish fulfillment unlikely to move or comfort similarly marginalized kids. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-908714-62-6

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Cicada Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.


From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.


A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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