A funny read-aloud with (mostly) chuckle-inducing illustrations.

She may not be allowed to, but the eponymous green-skinned, overalls-clad monster thinks of many magnificent, creative ways to open that box before dinnertime.

Ginny’s large head sports huge, white eyes with long, dark lashes, a cheerful, two-fanged grin, and two pointy ears—one of which is torn. In other words, she is undoubtedly a nonharmful sort of goblin. After the text makes it clear that Ginny is not allowed to open the box until dinnertime—but “she really wants to know what’s inside”—it asks, “What if we put the box way up on a shelf?” Next, readers learn the many (often absurdly hypothetical) things that Ginny Goblin is not allowed to do in order to reach the box, including using a rope and a grappling hook or building a catapult or poking at “scaly, scary serpents” in a “murky moat.” Needing to wait until dinnertime strikes a familiar chord with this age group and becomes an appropriate refrain. Lighthearted, cartoony artwork mostly supports the text’s tongue-in-cheek tone, leading to laughs about the outlandish suggestions. However, slapstick images of Ginny’s body slamming against a stone tower and, later, Ginny clobbering serpents may strike many as unnecessarily violent. Suspense builds when Ginny temporarily turns her attention away from opening the box. The closure of knowing what’s inside is supplemented by a punchline well understood by children who have been given boundaries by adults.

A funny read-aloud with (mostly) chuckle-inducing illustrations. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-544-76415-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018


Take strength from the dreamers before you and follow your dreams. Or maybe just roll the dice.

Is it a book about aspirations or the backstory for the board game?

Chickapig is defined as “an animal hybrid that is half-chicken and half-pig” and is depicted in yellow, two-legged chick shape with pink pig snout and ears. Young Joe Chickapig lives on a farm that was his grandfather’s dream, but it’s getting Joe down. He dreams of adventure but needs the “courage to follow his heart. / But how could he do it? How could he start?” In a bedtime story, Joe’s mother shares the influential characters that helped Joe’s sailor grandfather “follow his heart against the tide.” It seems that “Grandpa had heard a story told / Of a great big bear who broke the mold. / The bear was tired of striking fear”—so he became a forest doctor and a friend to all. And the bear’s inspiration? “A mouse who went to space.” The mouse, in turn, found hope in a “fierce young dragon” who joined a rock band. And coming full circle, the dragon found courage from a Chickapig warrior who “tired of shields and swords to wield” and established a farm. Chickapig game fans will appreciate this fanciful rhyming tale illustrated in attention-grabbing colors, but readers coming to it cold will note a distinct absence of plot. Mouse and dragon present female; all others are male.

Take strength from the dreamers before you and follow your dreams. Or maybe just roll the dice. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7944-4452-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Printers Row

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019


A playful, funny, and heartfelt tale to soothe the back-to-school blues.

A young lycanthrope frets about the first night of school.

It’s time for Sophie to head off to howlergarten for her first full moon—but what if she fails to transform into a werewolf like her parents? She worries about being away from her parents, too, but she meets new friends, participates in werewolf training (which entails tracking scents, moving like a wolf, and listening “to the whispers of the wind”), and survives her first full moon. Warm and empathetic Sophie even offers reassurance to a classmate who doesn’t transform. Shum’s story is a sweetly encouraging and appealing take on the perennial topic of first-day-of-school jitters. Though the book features werewolves, Sophie is relatable, her concerns—separation anxiety, fears that she won’t fit in or do well at school—likely to resonate with many youngsters. The illustrations alternate between full- and half-page spreads and vignettes; the use of panels on one page gives the book the feel of comics. Though the main characters are werewolves, they’re nevertheless an endearing bunch, sweet and furry, with oversized round heads and sturdy bodies. One adorable scene shows Sophie and the other children at howlergarten snoozing, curled up like pups rather than kids. Sophie’s mom has dark brown skin, while Sophie and her father are tan-skinned. The howlergarten students are diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A playful, funny, and heartfelt tale to soothe the back-to-school blues. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2023

ISBN: 9780593521274

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023

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