One thing’s certain: It's magic.

SEA OF DREAMS

A girl leaves her sandcastle at dusk, just as the inevitable tide rushes in, and misses a small, plaintive light that appears in its window. Rushes of tingly surrealism continue throughout this wordless adventure story about the tiny inhabitants of the sandcastle, who escape by boat.

Double-page spreads immerse readers in a fantastical world studded with gem-like pleasures: Miniature mermaids frolic with seahorses, the shipwrecked family forage among towering seashells, starfish and seaweed, their washed-up girl feeds a seagull baby, standing on tippy-toes to reach its beak. While much Thumbelinan pleasure comes from watching the minute creatures navigate our suddenly gigantic world, even more riveting interplay occurs among characters of equal proportion. Arms strain from boat to boy as he’s thrown into the waves and his hands stretch to meet them—from way across the opposite page; a mermaid clutches his shoulders as he descends, locking eyes and leaving him in open-mouthed shock. These striking, imaginative scenes, rendered in a pleasingly realistic style, make for a magical read. Children will surely shout, “Cool!” many times reading such a cinematic, arresting picture book, but they will also diligently peruse the richly detailed illustrations that ultimately make this modern fairy-folk tale so engaging. And then there’s its embedded question, one as slippery as a fish and as old as the ocean: Was it all a dream or real?

One thing’s certain: It's magic. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59643-470-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Neal Porter/Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2011

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

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KNIGHT OWL

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 jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

SNOW PLACE LIKE HOME

From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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