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By the last page, Blinsh feels like the real happiest place on Earth.

The vampires of Blinsh may be the most hopeful monsters in all of literature.

Pretty much everyone in Blinsh, Pinksylvania, eats doughnuts, including the creatures of the night. This is true even though they come in flavors like “boiled turnip and sauerkraut.” And yet, Pinkwater notes, “the Blinshites keep buying them and eating them, hoping it will be better this time. It never is.” Nevertheless, the vampires in this picture book are cheerful in general, possibly because they can float in the air, although, as the text points out: “Numerous normal-type Pinksylvanians have learned to do this for short periods, perhaps from vampire neighbors?” This is one of the more eventful passages in the book. If there’s a plot, it may escape the average reader. The book is mostly a travel guide to Blinsh and its environs, but the pages are utterly packed with detail. It might not be possible to get all of the in-jokes. A map of the town shows “Wallywood Amusement Park,” which could be a reference to a cartoonist, the filmmaking capitol of the United States, or even Dollywood (probably not Dollywood). If there is a protagonist, it’s Mr. Papooshnik, who bears a resemblance to the White, Jewish author of the book; the town as a whole is quite diverse. Fans of cult artists may be pleased that the pictures look, faintly, like the gigantic, cartoonish sculptures of Red Grooms. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 66.7% of actual size.)

By the last page, Blinsh feels like the real happiest place on Earth. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4681-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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From the I Need My Monster series

Frightful and delightful: a comforting (to some, anyway) reminder that no one sleeps alone.

In a tardy prequel to I Need My Monster (2009), candidates for that coveted spot under the bed audition.

As the distressingly unflappable young narrator looks on, one monster after another gives it a go—but even with three mouths, the best roar Genghis can manage is a puny “blurp!”, silly shadow puppets by shaggy Morgan elicit only a sneeze, and red Abigail’s attempt to startle by hiding in the fridge merely leaves her shivering and pathetic. Fortunately, there’s Gabe, who knows just how to turn big and hairy while lurking outside the bathroom and whose red-eyed stare and gross drooling sends the lad scrambling into bed to save his toes. “Kid, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship,” the toothy terror growls. Right he is, the lad concludes, snuggling down beneath the covers: “His snorts and ooze were perfect.” As usual, the white-presenting child’s big, bright, smiling face and the assortment of bumbling monsters rendered in oversaturated hues keep any actual scariness at tentacle’s length. Moreover, Monster, Inc. fans will delight in McWilliam’s painstaking details of fang, claw, hair, and scales.

Frightful and delightful: a comforting (to some, anyway) reminder that no one sleeps alone. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-947277-09-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Flashlight Press

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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From the Fitz and Cleo series , Vol. 1

Cute as a boo-ton—if a tad stereotypical.

Ghost siblings ghoul it up in a new graphic-novel series.

A “THUMP” from the attic sends siblings Fitz and Cleo up to investigate. The spooky vibes delight Cleo, so she improvises “The Spooky Attic Song.” Fitz tries to shush his sister so they can maintain “the element of surprise” as they approach the sound’s source. The mystery is solved: It’s a cat! Cleo promptly scoops the (seemingly mortal) cat up and names him Mister Boo. Fitz has reservations but relents when Mister Boo sits on his head. Ten subsequent chapters, varying between four and seven pages in length, chronicle the trio’s further shenanigans. Husband-and-wife team Stutzman and Fox create an entertaining early graphic novel in the vein of Ben Clanton’s Narwhal and Jelly series. Though there are occasional speech bubbles, dialogue is most often connected to the speaker by a solid black line. Sentences are short, and there are at most two speakers per panel. Additionally, with no more than six panels per page and simple backgrounds, the story provides adequate support to emerging readers. Fox’s expressive illustrations and clever use of panel layouts effectively build off the humor in Stutzman’s text. Cleo is depicted with a purple bow; Fitz with a baseball cap and glasses. Unfortunately, their personalities as well as their appearances play into gender stereotypes.

Cute as a boo-ton—if a tad stereotypical. (Graphic fantasy. 6-10)

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-23944-0

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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