A nifty addition to the shelves of feminist fractured fairy tales

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READING BEAUTY

From the creators of Interstellar Cinderella (2015) comes another fairy-tale remake that features a smart young woman who can and does rescue herself from peril.

Princess Lex, a brown-skinned girl with puffy blue hair, is a book lover, like most inhabitants of her planetoid. She reads all day and night. But on her 15th birthday, she wakes to find all her books gone. When she asks her parents what is happening, they tell her about a fairy who thought she hadn’t been invited to Lex’s birth celebration and cursed her with a sleep-inducing paper cut to occur at the age of 15. Of course Lex can’t accept life without books. She decides to find the fairy and “make her break the curse.” Lex uses knowledge she gained from reading to find and outsmart the fairy. Some fun plot surprises await on Lex’s quest before the ending, where “all read happily ever after.” The rhyming text is fun to read at a fast-moving pace. Underwood attends to every detail of the original story with humor and creates characters readers will love. The busy illustrations use color, pattern, and costume to create an elaborate Afro-futuristic setting that enhances the story.

A nifty addition to the shelves of feminist fractured fairy tales . (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4521-7129-6

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Chronicle Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A close encounter of the best kind.

FIELD TRIP TO THE MOON

Left behind when the space bus departs, a child discovers that the moon isn’t as lifeless as it looks.

While the rest of the space-suited class follows the teacher like ducklings, one laggard carrying crayons and a sketchbook sits down to draw our home planet floating overhead, falls asleep, and wakes to see the bus zooming off. The bright yellow bus, the gaggle of playful field-trippers, and even the dull gray boulders strewn over the equally dull gray lunar surface have a rounded solidity suggestive of Plasticine models in Hare’s wordless but cinematic scenes…as do the rubbery, one-eyed, dull gray creatures (think: those stress-busting dolls with ears that pop out when squeezed) that emerge from the regolith. The mutual shock lasts but a moment before the lunarians eagerly grab the proffered crayons to brighten the bland gray setting with silly designs. The creatures dive into the dust when the bus swoops back down but pop up to exchange goodbye waves with the errant child, who turns out to be an olive-skinned kid with a mop of brown hair last seen drawing one of their new friends with the one crayon—gray, of course—left in the box. Body language is expressive enough in this debut outing to make a verbal narrative superfluous.

A close encounter of the best kind. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4253-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Margaret Ferguson/Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day.

MY DAY WITH GONG GONG

Spending a day with Gong Gong doesn’t sound like very much fun to May.

Gong Gong doesn’t speak English, and May doesn’t know Chinese. How can they have a good day together? As they stroll through an urban Chinatown, May’s perpetually sanguine maternal grandfather chats with friends and visits shops. At each stop, Cantonese words fly back and forth, many clearly pointed at May, who understands none of it. It’s equally exasperating trying to communicate with Gong Gong in English, and by the time they join a card game in the park with Gong Gong’s friends, May is tired, hungry, and frustrated. But although it seems like Gong Gong hasn’t been attentive so far, when May’s day finally comes to a head, it is clear that he has. First-person text gives glimpses into May’s lively thoughts as they evolve through the day, and Gong Gong’s unchangingly jolly face reflects what could be mistaken for blithe obliviousness but is actually his way of showing love through sharing the people and places of his life. Through adorable illustrations that exude humor and warmth, this portrait of intergenerational affection is also a tribute to life in Chinatown neighborhoods: Street vendors, a busker playing a Chinese violin, a dim sum restaurant, and more all combine to add a distinctive texture. 

A multilayered, endearing treasure of a day. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77321-429-0

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Annick Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Readers seeking a genuine refugee voice will be disappointed.

THE REFUGE

Iliana, the new girl at school, looks at the sky all the time and draws meteors and planets, but she does not smile much and cries sometimes.

Jeannette’s mother encourages her to become friends with Iliana. Jeannette learns that Iliana crossed the sea on a small crowded boat to escape war; that she was cold and hungry; and that her mother comforted her with the idea of looking at the sky, which belongs to everybody. After Jeannette reports this, her mom suggests that she invite Iliana’s family over, where they share more about their frightful displacement story, summarized in the third-person narration. During the visit, Jeannette shows Iliana her telescope, and they gaze up at the sky and clouds, paving the way for a firmer friendship. The story strives to portray refugees as people, giving its characters identifiable names, hobbies, fears, professional lives, and ambitions. However, it grossly fails at doing so by silencing Iliana’s and her family’s voices, instead representing their narratives solely through conversation between Jeannette and her mother or in summary despite their clear ability to communicate with Jeannette and her family. While the stylized illustrations are whimsical and engaging, often thematically speaking to children’s interest in outer space, readers looking for resettled refugees with narrative agency will likely be disheartened.

Readers seeking a genuine refugee voice will be disappointed. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: May 26, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2050-3

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Amazon Crossing Kids

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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