From the Hornbeam Books series

All in for this dazzling series starter!

An early reader with a big heart.

Hornbeam, an anthropomorphic moose, has many animal friends. In this series opener, which consists of three stories, Rylant uses controlled vocabulary to highlight a trio of especially important friends. The first is Eureka, a goose, who brings Hornbeam to a picnic that turns out to be a great big goose family reunion. In fact, it’s so big that Hornbeam humorously misses out on enjoying much-desired potato salad (giving the last bite to a gosling), since he’s preoccupied with meeting each individual bird. In the second story, Hornbeam’s furnace breaks, and his friend Cuddy (a bull) lets him spend the night. When Hornbeam’s snoring keeps Cuddy awake all night, the good-natured bull displays the same generosity of spirit that Hornbeam did in the first story. Finally, in the third tale, Hornbeam, Eureka, and Cuddy go to the pool to cheer on their skunk friend, Adorabelle, at a swim meet. During the course of events, Hornbeam discloses that he cannot swim, and his friends lovingly encourage him to overcome his anxieties to learn. As in previous Rylant–Howard collaborations, the illustrations ramp up the gentle humor in the text, with funny details like the quadruped moose wearing shoes only on his hind hooves, bumper stickers on animals’ vehicles, and especially snazzy attire for the geese (berets, turtlenecks, glasses).

All in for this dazzling series starter! (Early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781665924818

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Beach Lane/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Sept. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023


The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017


From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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