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The whimsical sweetness of Nesbit’s original story and the richness of its early 20th-century language have both been stripped from this misguided attempt at retelling. While adult readers will keenly miss that richness, new young readers will probably enjoy the story of young Lionel, taken from his building blocks when the news comes that his many-greats-grandfather has died and he must be king. Lionel is far more taken with his grandfather’s books, even though the Prime Minister and Chancellor warn him not to open them. He does so of course, letting loose among other beasts a red dragon who eats every member of Parliament, an orphanage and the Football Players. Lionel, with some help from a Hippogriff and none at all from a Manticora, finds a way of getting the dragon back into the book, with only slightly singed pages. Nurse, a figure of comfort, has a severe mien in these pictures, which are lush and hyperreal, as is Hague’s wont. Not to everyone’s taste, but his adult fans will snap it up. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-688-14006-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2006

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From the Unicorn Diaries series , Vol. 1

A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text.

A unicorn learns a friendship lesson in this chapter-book series opener.

Unicorn Bo has friends but longs for a “bestie.” Luckily, a new unicorn pops into existence (literally: Unicorns appear on especially starry nights) and joins Bo at the Sparklegrove School for Unicorns, where they study things like unicorn magic. Each unicorn has a special power; Bo’s is granting wishes. Not knowing what his own might be distresses new unicorn Sunny. When the week’s assignment is to earn a patch by using their unicorn powers to help someone, Bo hopes Sunny will wish to know Bo's power (enabling both unicorns to complete the task, and besides, Bo enjoys Sunny’s company and wants to help him). But when the words come out wrong, Sunny thinks Bo was feigning friendship to get to grant a wish and earn a patch, setting up a fairly sophisticated conflict. Bo makes things up to Sunny, and then—with the unicorns friends again and no longer trying to force their powers—arising circumstances enable them to earn their patches. The cheerful illustrations feature a sherbet palette, using patterns for texture; on busy pages with background colors similar to the characters’ color schemes, this combines with the absence of outlines to make discerning some individual characters a challenge. The format, familiar to readers of Elliott’s Owl Diaries series, uses large print and speech bubbles to keep pages to a manageable amount of text.

A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-32332-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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A beautiful adventure about embracing both sides of one’s heritage.

A parent spins a bedtime story that takes a biracial child on a cross-cultural journey.

Donning a cloak and sturdy boots, the protagonist enters a lush autumn forest, venturing past “mischievous hobgoblins” and “glowing will-o’-the-wisps.” The pages are richly detailed, framed with decorative borders in a palette that is reminiscent of European fairy-tale illustrations with a touch of art nouveau. In a small thatched-roof cottage, the child encounters a White-presenting wise woman who describes dragons as “fearsome and fiery creatures” that hoard treasure and defeat knights. After learning this, the young adventurer slips into another forest, one with sumptuous, flowing ink illustrations in the style of traditional Chinese landscape paintings. Guided by the footprints of nine-tailed foxes and the advice of a white rabbit who lives on the moon, the child reaches the palace of a Chinese-presenting wise woman. In this realm, dragons are described as “majestic creatures of air and fire” who “rule in the skies and rivers” and control the rain. The Chinese-presenting parent ends the tale by noting that both worlds, though distinctly different, exist within the child and are open to be explored—and that “two wise grandmothers await / to share with you / their truth about dragons.” The book feels a little message-heavy, but it’s nevertheless a much-needed celebration of intergenerational storytelling and biracial identity. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A beautiful adventure about embracing both sides of one’s heritage. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2023

ISBN: 9781250820587

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023

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