Benign but bland.



Darío is excited for his younger brother Ariel’s upcoming birthday. How will the family celebrate?

Darío hopes that Ariel’s fifth birthday celebration will be as exciting as his was, with a huge party, all of his friends, and lots of presents. He can’t believe it when Ariel decides that all he wants is to eat bean and cheese tacos with his family in the park. How disappointing! But when the day arrives, Darío begins to see and feel how the little things make the day truly special for Ariel. Mom and Dad (Mamá and Papá in the parallel Spanish translation) pick the boys up from school together. The park is nearly empty, and they have the playground to themselves. The simple bean and cheese tacos are delicious. Ended here, the book would be a sweet tale of savoring the simple things in life. Unfortunately, it meanders on. The boys meet the park ranger, who takes them for a ride in his ranger car and shows them all of his important equipment, such as life jackets and his first aid kit. It’s a strange detour that causes the quality of the story to dissipate with every page turn. Though the illustrations do at times convey the joyful bond of the family, overall they appear lackluster and washed-out, doing little to enhance the text.

Benign but bland. (Bilingual picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-55885-812-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Piñata Books/Arté Público

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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Kids may choose differently at the pumpkin patch after reading this tale, though any deeper message may be lost on them.


A stemless pumpkin who isn’t chosen gets the best Halloween of all.

On the shelves outside a shop in a busy city, a shopkeeper makes a display of orange pumpkins and a single yellow gourd. They are all sizes and shapes and have lovely stems, save for one. Poor Stumpkin worries that, despite his good qualities, his stemlessness will prevent him from becoming a jack-o’-lantern like all the other pumpkins that go home with customers to decorate the windows across the street. On Halloween night, he alone is left (even the gourd went home with someone!). So the shopkeeper scoops him up. The spreads that follow are marvelous, wordless creations that will delight young readers: A black spread is followed by one with an orange-rimmed white triangle on the verso, then one with similar triangles on both pages. “Stumpkin wouldn’t be getting a window. And he wouldn’t be getting a new home. // He already had a home.” The final page shows Stumpkin as a jack-o’-lantern back on the shelves with the shopkeeper’s friendly black cat. Though undoubtedly feel-good, the book may leave readers wondering exactly what it’s saying about Stumpkin’s physical irregularity—is it some kind of disability metaphor? The city sights, people, and animals other than the cat are all black silhouettes, keeping the focus on Stumpkin.

Kids may choose differently at the pumpkin patch after reading this tale, though any deeper message may be lost on them. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1362-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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Not one to stop for despite the appeal of the cartoony art style.


An intrepid member of Santa’s team saves Christmas.

When weary elves get into a fight just before Christmas Eve, Comet the reindeer steps in to break up the fisticuffs and is injured. The rhyming text describes how the doctor tells him he needs to rest and can’t help pull Santa’s sleigh that night, and then it reads, “Comet watched Santa get ready. / (His spot had been filled by / a rookie named Freddy.)” The singsong cadence and goofy phrasing of these lines is representative of the text as a whole, which goes on to reveal that Santa forgets to bring his bag filled with toys on the journey. No one notices this oversight since Freddy keeps them all entertained with silly songs. Injured Comet decides he must deliver the toys himself, and a comical sequence shows him struggling to lift an enormous bag onto his shoulders before giving up. Then he reads a tear-jerker of a letter to Santa from a selfless child, which inspires him to persist. He flies around the world in search of this child’s home, delivering toys until he finally finds the house he’s searching for in Oahu. At this point Santa calls “full of thanks-yous and praise, / so quick-thinking Comet / mentioned getting a raise,” an attempt at wit that both undercuts the message of selflessness and aims over the heads of most child readers. Santa presents White, and his elf employees are diverse.

Not one to stop for despite the appeal of the cartoony art style. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4347-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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