The title doesn’t really match the content, though it may spark readers’ own imaginations.

IT'S GREAT BEING A DAD

The finer points of various jobs are explored in this tribute to…dads?

“It’s great being a unicorn. I love being a unicorn. Who wouldn’t want to be a unicorn?” The bright, cartoon, rainbow-bedecked spread hardly seems like it belongs in a book about being a dad. Ditto the spreads about being Bigfoot, a robot, the Loch Ness Monster, and a “fairy queen ballerina doctor.” For each of the characters, there are positives and negatives to their roles. For instance, the unicorn’s horn gets in the way of grazing and eating cake off a table, which subsequently gets stuck on said horn. Bigfoot tries to come to the rescue, but it has challenges of its own. And so on. It’s not until the magic wand of the fairy queen ballerina doctor is snatched by a “sneaky flying alligator pirate” that dads are even mentioned. A turn of the page reveals a dark-skinned dad standing amid a scene of imaginative play: it’s great being a dad, as dads can fix it all. What’s not to like? “Sudden makeovers.” Perry’s gouache and Photoshop illustrations clue readers in only on the final spreads, the kids’ clever clothing and costuming choices making their characters come to life. Only one child is white; the rest are various shades of brown, though all have distractingly stylized noses.

The title doesn’t really match the content, though it may spark readers’ own imaginations. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-77049-605-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Tundra

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text.

BO'S MAGICAL NEW FRIEND

From the Unicorn Diaries series , Vol. 1

A unicorn learns a friendship lesson in this chapter-book series opener.

Unicorn Bo has friends but longs for a “bestie.” Luckily, a new unicorn pops into existence (literally: Unicorns appear on especially starry nights) and joins Bo at the Sparklegrove School for Unicorns, where they study things like unicorn magic. Each unicorn has a special power; Bo’s is granting wishes. Not knowing what his own might be distresses new unicorn Sunny. When the week’s assignment is to earn a patch by using their unicorn powers to help someone, Bo hopes Sunny will wish to know Bo's power (enabling both unicorns to complete the task, and besides, Bo enjoys Sunny’s company and wants to help him). But when the words come out wrong, Sunny thinks Bo was feigning friendship to get to grant a wish and earn a patch, setting up a fairly sophisticated conflict. Bo makes things up to Sunny, and then—with the unicorns friends again and no longer trying to force their powers—arising circumstances enable them to earn their patches. The cheerful illustrations feature a sherbet palette, using patterns for texture; on busy pages with background colors similar to the characters’ color schemes, this combines with the absence of outlines to make discerning some individual characters a challenge. The format, familiar to readers of Elliott’s Owl Diaries series, uses large print and speech bubbles to keep pages to a manageable amount of text.

A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-32332-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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