A fun read, though perhaps not a favorite.


A “Snow White”–inspired tale of a kind, intelligent bot-builder, from the creators of Interstellar Cinderella (2015) and Reading Beauty (2019).

“Once upon a planetoid,” Jo Bright, a green-haired, tan-skinned girl clad in overalls, builds bots from found items, improvising with odds and ends because the “jealous, robot-building queen” (depicted with light skin) won’t let her use her tools and supplies. When the queen’s mirror-bot announces that Jo Bright is the best bot-builder, the queen banishes Jo, leaving her near the dragon’s lair. Sparky, the misunderstood and lonely dragon, invites Jo in for tea, and Jo uses items in the dragon’s home to make seven bots to keep the creature company. Back at the castle, the mirror-bot still confirms Jo is the best bot-builder, so the queen attempts to kill Jo with an evil apple-bot, which zaps the smallest dragon-bot instead. To repair him, Jo must sneak into the queen’s workshop. Sparky and the bots go with her, prepared for trouble, and together they defeat the queen. Underwood’s narrative moves quickly in rhyming stanzas, with only occasionally unnatural constructions to serve the rhyme. Hunt’s quirky illustrations offer diverse creatures, colorful landscapes, and whimsical looking bots, though images of the queen smashing the mirror-bot and the little bot crumpled on the ground may unsettle younger readers, especially those not familiar with the original story. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A fun read, though perhaps not a favorite. (Fairy tale. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7130-2

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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A sweet, if oft-told, story.


A plush toy rabbit bonds with a boy and watches him grow into adulthood.

The boy receives the blue bunny for his birthday and immediately becomes attached to it. Unbeknownst to him, the ungendered bunny is sentient; it engages in dialogue with fellow toys, giving readers insight into its thoughts. The bunny's goal is to have grand adventures when the boy grows up and no longer needs its company. The boy spends many years playing imaginatively with the bunny, holding it close during both joyous and sorrowful times and taking it along on family trips. As a young man, he marries, starts a family, and hands over the beloved toy to his toddler-aged child in a crib. The bunny's epiphany—that he does not need to wait for great adventures since all his dreams have already come true in the boy's company—is explicitly stated in the lengthy text, which is in many ways similar to The Velveteen Rabbit (1922). The illustrations, which look hand-painted but were digitally created, are moderately sentimental with an impressionistic dreaminess (one illustration even includes a bunny-shaped cloud in the sky) and a warm glow throughout. The depiction of a teenage male openly displaying his emotions—hugging his beloved childhood toy for example—is refreshing. All human characters present as White expect for one of the boy’s friends who is Black.

A sweet, if oft-told, story. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72825-448-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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