Could have been a slick pastiche…given a spell check run and better art and writing.

Harold takes his purple crayon on a newly minted adventure, meeting pirates and lots of sea life.

Designed to mimic the look and feel of Johnson’s original series, this anonymously composed and illustrated spinoff (title-page credit notwithstanding) follows the pajama-clad lad on a nighttime outing onto a pirate ship, off a plank at sword point, into and out of the ocean, and finally through a cave where, once he draws a window “that the sun shined through big and bright,” he finds “the best treasure ever” in his own bedroom toy box. Along the way he encounters a mermaid (discreetly clad in a camisole) but passes by because he doesn’t want to “interupt” [sic] her and an octopus who is no help with directions because “they didn’t see eye to eye,” whatever that means. In the purple-dominated illustrations the pirate and the mermaid are just outlines, and so take on the color of the background, but Harold’s exposed hands and round head have been darkened just enough to create a whiff of racial ambiguity. This has absolutely none of the magic of the 1955 classic, and it’s hard not to wonder what Johnson might make of it; the Ruth Krauss Foundation holds the copyright, but the identities of the actual author and illustrator are carefully concealed.

Could have been a slick pastiche…given a spell check run and better art and writing. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-265531-8

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020


From the Big Bright Feelings series

A heartwarming story about facing fears and acceptance.

A boy with wings learns to be himself and inspires others like him to soar, too.

Norman, a “perfectly normal” boy, never dreamed he might grow wings. Afraid of what his parents might say, he hides his new wings under a big, stuffy coat. Although the coat hides his wings from the world, Norman no longer finds joy in bathtime, playing at the park, swimming, or birthday parties. With the gentle encouragement of his parents, who see his sadness, Norman finds the courage to come out of hiding and soar. Percival (The Magic Looking Glass, 2017, etc.) depicts Norman with light skin and dark hair. Black-and-white illustrations show his father with dark skin and hair and his mother as white. The contrast of black-and-white illustrations with splashes of bright color complements the story’s theme. While Norman tries to be “normal,” the world and people around him look black and gray, but his coat stands out in yellow. Birds pop from the page in pink, green, and blue, emphasizing the joy and beauty of flying free. The final spread, full of bright color and multiracial children in flight, sets the mood for Norman’s realization on the last page that there is “no such thing as perfectly normal,” but he can be “perfectly Norman.”

A heartwarming story about facing fears and acceptance. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: May 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-68119-785-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018


Animated and educational.

A hare and a ground squirrel banter about the differences between related animals that are often confused for one another.

Jack is “no Flopsy, Mopsy, or Cottontail,” but a “H-A-R-E, hare!” Like sheep and goats, or turtles and tortoises, rabbits and hares may look similar, but hares are bigger, their fur changes color in the winter, and they are born with their eyes wide open. As the ground squirrel (not to be mistaken for a chipmunk (even though Jack cheekily calls it “Chippie”) and Jack engage in playful discussion about animals, a sneaky coyote prowls after them through the Sonoran Desert. This picture book conveys the full narrative in spirited, speech-bubbled dialogue set on expressive illustrations of talking animals. Dark outlines around the characters make their shapes pop against the softly blended colors of the desert backgrounds. Snappy back-and-forth paired with repetition and occasional rhyme enhances the story’s appeal as a read-aloud. As the story progresses, the colors of the sky shift from dawn to dusk, providing subtle, visual bookends for the narrative. One page of backmatter offers a quick guide to eight easily confused pairs, and a second turns a subsequent exploration of the book into a seek-and-find of 15 creatures (and one dessert) hidden in the desert. Unfortunately, while most of the creatures from the seek-and-find appear in poses that match the illustrations in the challenge, not all of them are consistently represented. (This book was reviewed digitally with 7-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 53.3% of actual size.)

Animated and educational. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-358-12506-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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