An entertaining thought experiment, but the characters are a bit too on-the-nose for pure comfort.

WHAT IS INSIDE THIS BOX?

From the Monkey and Cake series

Anthropomorphic friends Monkey and Cake debate the mysterious contents of a cardboard box.

In a clear reference to Schrödinger, Monkey tells Cake that there’s a cat inside the box—but, supposedly, the cat disappears when the box is opened. Cake questions Monkey’s logic, wondering how they know there is a cat inside when the box is closed. Naturally, Monkey asks how Cake knows there is not a cat inside. Agreeing to disagree—and accepting the paradox—the pair leaves to get pie. The final pages set the matter straight once and for all. Taking a cue from the Elephant & Piggie series formula, the text consists entirely of dialogue. Speech bubbles are color-coded to easily match with characters (blue for Cake; yellow for Monkey). With a vocabulary of around 60 words, the dialogue offers plenty of repetition for emergent readers. Tallec’s expressive, dark-pencil–and-acrylic illustrations are set against a white background. That the characters are a brown monkey with an upturned cap and a yellow-and-pink slice of cake with a coating of brown frosting as hair opens the relationship up to racial analysis. In one spread, a zoomed-in portrait of Cake even looks like a white human. The simultaneously publishing This Is MY Fort! recycles the formula into a lesson on the cruelty of exclusion (Cake makes a fort in which no monkeys are allowed). In both texts, endpapers offer open-ended questions to contextualize the story.

An entertaining thought experiment, but the characters are a bit too on-the-nose for pure comfort. (Early reader. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-14386-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Orchard/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...

CLAYMATES

Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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Halloween is used merely as a backdrop; better holiday titles for young readers are available.

THE LITTLE GHOST WHO WAS A QUILT

A ghost learns to appreciate his differences.

The little ghost protagonist of this title is unusual. He’s a quilt, not a lightweight sheet like his parents and friends. He dislikes being different despite his mom’s reassurance that his ancestors also had unconventional appearances. Halloween makes the little ghost happy, though. He decides to watch trick-or-treaters by draping over a porch chair—but lands on a porch rail instead. A mom accompanying her daughter picks him up, wraps him around her chilly daughter, and brings him home with them! The family likes his looks and comforting warmth, and the little ghost immediately feels better about himself. As soon as he’s able to, he flies out through the chimney and muses happily that this adventure happened only due to his being a quilt. This odd but gently told story conveys the importance of self-respect and acceptance of one’s uniqueness. The delivery of this positive message has something of a heavy-handed feel and is rushed besides. It also isn’t entirely logical: The protagonist could have been a different type of covering; a blanket, for instance, might have enjoyed an identical experience. The soft, pleasing illustrations’ palette of tans, grays, white, black, some touches of color, and, occasionally, white text against black backgrounds suggest isolation, such as the ghost feels about himself. Most humans, including the trick-or-treating mom and daughter, have beige skin. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-16.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 66.2% of actual size.)

Halloween is used merely as a backdrop; better holiday titles for young readers are available. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6447-2

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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