A few moments shine, but all in all an overstuffed effort.

What with keeping the fridge stocked with slug mush and sour green milk, incidentals such as mud soap and fang paste seem downright ordinary—unlike the consequences of ignoring the emphatic “Don’t”s populating this unorthodox DIY manual: “massive monster tantrums.”

The six-step bedtime instructions are scrawled on wide-ruled school paper, detailing the biracial bunny-slippered protagonist’s superior strategizing skills. If the detailed formula is rigidly adhered to, the rowdy monster will allow itself to go from a soothing ice bath to bedtime story to screeching lullaby to, finally, sleep. OHora’s signature color palette and tongue-in-cheek retro illustrations with a matte finish bring Vega’s uneven story to uproarious life. The sheep sandwich heading for the cavernous maw looks appropriately terrified, in contrast to the tiny terrier worrying the gigantic, furred monster’s knees. From the parents (a shell-shocked black mom cradles her cringing white husband) to the exuberant grizzly-sized, pom-pom–sporting, rainbow-striped monster, the delightful characters revolve around a no-nonsense, brown-skinned child rocking her own pom-pom ’do. Regrettably, Vega tries too hard to be cute. There is a game of “toss-the-slime-ball,” the information that “monsters hate milk unless it’s sour and green and smells like dirty underwear,” and instructions to “read the freakiest, creepiest, scariest story from your bookshelf—screaming where appropriate”—it’s all just too much.

A few moments shine, but all in all an overstuffed effort. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-553-49655-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2017


As ephemeral as a valentine.

Daywalt and Jeffers’ wandering crayons explore love.

Each double-page spread offers readers a vision of one of the anthropomorphic crayons on the left along with the statement “Love is [color].” The word love is represented by a small heart in the appropriate color. Opposite, childlike crayon drawings explain how that color represents love. So, readers learn, “love is green. / Because love is helpful.” The accompanying crayon drawing depicts two alligators, one holding a recycling bin and the other tossing a plastic cup into it, offering readers two ways of understanding green. Some statements are thought-provoking: “Love is white. / Because sometimes love is hard to see,” reaches beyond the immediate image of a cat’s yellow eyes, pink nose, and black mouth and whiskers, its white face and body indistinguishable from the paper it’s drawn on, to prompt real questions. “Love is brown. / Because sometimes love stinks,” on the other hand, depicted by a brown bear standing next to a brown, squiggly turd, may provoke giggles but is fundamentally a cheap laugh. Some of the color assignments have a distinctly arbitrary feel: Why is purple associated with the imagination and pink with silliness? Fans of The Day the Crayons Quit (2013) hoping for more clever, metaliterary fun will be disappointed by this rather syrupy read.

As ephemeral as a valentine. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-9268-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2021


A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history.

Ferry and the Fans portray a popular seasonal character’s unlikely friendship.

Initially, the protagonist is shown in his solitary world: “Scarecrow stands alone and scares / the fox and deer, / the mice and crows. / It’s all he does. It’s all he knows.” His presence is effective; the animals stay outside the fenced-in fields, but the omniscient narrator laments the character’s lack of friends or places to go. Everything changes when a baby crow falls nearby. Breaking his pole so he can bend, the scarecrow picks it up, placing the creature in the bib of his overalls while singing a lullaby. Both abandon natural tendencies until the crow learns to fly—and thus departs. The aabb rhyme scheme flows reasonably well, propelling the narrative through fall, winter, and spring, when the mature crow returns with a mate to build a nest in the overalls bib that once was his home. The Fan brothers capture the emotional tenor of the seasons and the main character in their panoramic pencil, ballpoint, and digital compositions. Particularly poignant is the close-up of the scarecrow’s burlap face, his stitched mouth and leaf-rimmed head conveying such sadness after his companion goes. Some adults may wonder why the scarecrow seems to have only partial agency, but children will be tuned into the problem, gratified by the resolution.

A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247576-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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