A lovely message about differences for children that falls just short of its potential.


Someone Special


Kasarda’s picture book about a half-fish, half-lion cub addresses physical limitations and differences, and how to find a place in a world that doesn’t seem to fit.

Leeo the lionfish—not an actual lionfish, but the miraculous offspring of a lion and a catfish who fell in love—has the upper body of a lion and the lower body of a fish. In endearing, gentle artwork, Kasarda shows the love both parents have for their mismatched child. The front paws and lungs make Leeo different from his fish cousins. He gets teased for having to breathe through a tube when going to fish school, but, in a scene that provides a good reminder for children to stand up for those being teased, his cousin defends him to the other fish, saying that he’s clever for figuring out how to breathe beneath the surface. Leeo’s limitations aren’t restricted to the ocean, however, as his fish tail makes it impossible for him to run on the beach with his lion cousins. His loving family doesn’t see the fins as a limitation, and they fashion a wheelchair that allows Leeo to wheel along with them. The vividness of the wheelchair image conveys the author’s message with great clarity: Physical limitations shouldn’t make a child feel ostracized. The muted watercolors soften the tone, allowing the lesson to feel natural, not heavy-handed. When a storm strikes, endangering both his fish and lion cousins, Leeo shows versatility and quick thinking that enable him to save both groups, with the entire sea and land communities rallying behind him. In the important and empowering lesson for children, it’s heartwarming to see this “different” child fit in after his challenging beginning. Although the message is wonderful, the prose is occasionally stilted, especially when read aloud. Additionally, on two occasions the author’s voice and intention intrude upon the story: a lesson about whale breathing habits and a history of the Boston Tea Party. The jarring inclusion of these two facts disrupts the story’s flow, making it feel like an attempt to force educational content into the experience.

A lovely message about differences for children that falls just short of its potential.

Pub Date: June 7, 2013

ISBN: 978-1482594898

Page Count: 38

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2013

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From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 1

First volume of a planned three, this edited version of an ongoing online serial records a middle-school everykid’s triumphs and (more often) tribulations through the course of a school year. Largely through his own fault, mishaps seem to plague Greg at every turn, from the minor freak-outs of finding himself permanently seated in class between two pierced stoners and then being saddled with his mom for a substitute teacher, to being forced to wrestle in gym with a weird classmate who has invited him to view his “secret freckle.” Presented in a mix of legible “hand-lettered” text and lots of simple cartoon illustrations with the punch lines often in dialogue balloons, Greg’s escapades, unwavering self-interest and sardonic commentary are a hoot and a half—certain to elicit both gales of giggles and winces of sympathy (not to mention recognition) from young readers. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 0-8109-9313-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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Each time the witch loses something in the windy weather, she and her cat are introduced to a new friend who loves flying on her broom. The fluid rhyming and smooth rhythm work together with one repetitive plot element focusing young attention spans until the plot quickens. (“Is there room on the broom for a blank such as me?”) When the witch’s broom breaks, she is thrown in to danger and the plot flies to the finish. Her friends—cat, dog, frog, and bird—are not likely to scare the dragon who plans on eating the witch, but together they form a formidable, gooey, scary-sounding monster. The use of full-page or even page-and-a-half spreads for many of the illustrations will ensure its successful use in story times as well as individual readings. The wart-nosed witch and her passengers make magic that is sure to please. Effective use of brilliant colors set against well-conceived backgrounds detail the story without need for text—but with it, the story—and the broom—take off. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8037-2557-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2001

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