There’s an apple neatly hidden in this superhero candy treat.


A toy superhero tries to fly with help from his human child sidekick.

Lava Boy, a White child, and Captain Magma, a superhero toy who presents as a White male, work together to save the day all the time. Captain Magma has many powers: superstrength, lava vision, and friendliness so strong it wins over evil villains. But he can’t help but wish he could fly. Once, a bird picked him up and flew with him; he dreams of repeating the experience, but to no avail. And he secretly fears Lava Boy might replace him for a better superhero, like Meteor Shower, a Black female superhero who flies. Captain Magma enlists Lava Boy to help him learn to fly, with a 10-step plan involving craft supplies, feathers, a high launching spot, and, of course, trying again if you fail. After Meteor Shower rescues Captain Magma, Lava Boy and Meteor Shower’s human sidekick, Star Girl (who is also Black), run off together, clad in their superhero costumes and clutching their respective toys. While some of the later plot turns feel a bit arbitrary, this simple, easy-to-read tale explores childcentric issues of relationships, trust, and learning with a humorous touch. Bright illustrations in primary colors with green backgrounds, fun lettering, and occasional speech bubbles evoke the comic-book superhero tradition. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 67.5% of actual size.)

There’s an apple neatly hidden in this superhero candy treat. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62779-650-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)


A feel-good book about self-acceptance.

Empire star Byers and Bobo offer a beautifully illustrated, rhyming picture book detailing what one brown-skinned little girl with an impressive Afro appreciates about herself. Relying on similes, the text establishes a pattern with the opening sentence, “Like the sun, I’m here to shine,” and follows it through most of the book. Some of them work well, while others fall flat: “Like the rain, I’m here to pour / and drip and fall until I’m full.” In some vignettes she’s by herself; and in others, pictured along with children of other races. While the book’s pro-diversity message comes through, the didactic and even prideful expressions of self-acceptance make the book exasperatingly preachy—a common pitfall for books by celebrity authors. In contrast, Bobo’s illustrations are visually stunning. After painting the children and the objects with which they interact, such as flowers, books, and a red wagon, in acrylic on board for a traditional look, she scanned the images into Adobe Photoshop and added the backgrounds digitally in chalk. This lends a whimsical feel to such details as a rainbow, a window, wind, and rain—all reminiscent of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Bobo creates an inclusive world of girls in which wearing glasses, using a wheelchair, wearing a head scarf, and having a big Afro are unconditionally accepted rather than markers for othering.

A pro-girl book with illustrations that far outshine the text. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266712-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together.


A clueless duckling tries to make a new friend.

He is confused by this peculiar-looking duck, who has a long tail, doesn’t waddle and likes to be alone. No matter how explicitly the creature denies he is a duck and announces that he is a cat, the duckling refuses to acknowledge the facts.  When this creature expresses complete lack of interest in playing puddle stomp, the little ducking goes off and plays on his own. But the cat is not without remorse for rejecting an offered friendship. Of course it all ends happily, with the two new friends enjoying each other’s company. Bramsen employs brief sentences and the simplest of rhymes to tell this slight tale. The two heroes are meticulously drawn with endearing, expressive faces and body language, and their feathers and fur appear textured and touchable. Even the detailed tree bark and grass seem three-dimensional. There are single- and double-page spreads, panels surrounded by white space and circular and oval frames, all in a variety of eye-pleasing juxtapositions. While the initial appeal is solidly visual, young readers will get the gentle message that friendship is not something to take for granted but is to be embraced with open arms—or paws and webbed feet.

A sweet, tender and charming experience to read aloud or together. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 22, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-375-86990-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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