A kidnapped orphan races away to freedom. In an Arabian village, a little boy named Azad, who lives with his poor elderly uncle, fetches water for tea and tends to the goat before running off to play with his friends. His gymnastics skills attract the attention of a sheikh, who offers to train the boy as a camel rider. Whisked to the desert to live with a bunch of other boys, Azad competes in dangerous races and suffers brutal discipline. He and his camel Asfur become inseparable; one day, they win a race and keep going, until the men who have oppressed them are far in the distance. Boy and camel sleep curled up together under the desert moon and awake to the smiling faces of a group of Bedouins; Azad and Asfur have found a home at last. Pal's striking illustrations in watercolor and ink position sharply delineated characters in the foreground against soft, blurry desert backgrounds. Her heart-tugging tale also folds in a succinct social-studies lesson, and a brief afterword explains the controversial "sport" of camel racing. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-84507-982-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Frances Lincoln

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2010


Take strength from the dreamers before you and follow your dreams. Or maybe just roll the dice.

Is it a book about aspirations or the backstory for the board game?

Chickapig is defined as “an animal hybrid that is half-chicken and half-pig” and is depicted in yellow, two-legged chick shape with pink pig snout and ears. Young Joe Chickapig lives on a farm that was his grandfather’s dream, but it’s getting Joe down. He dreams of adventure but needs the “courage to follow his heart. / But how could he do it? How could he start?” In a bedtime story, Joe’s mother shares the influential characters that helped Joe’s sailor grandfather “follow his heart against the tide.” It seems that “Grandpa had heard a story told / Of a great big bear who broke the mold. / The bear was tired of striking fear”—so he became a forest doctor and a friend to all. And the bear’s inspiration? “A mouse who went to space.” The mouse, in turn, found hope in a “fierce young dragon” who joined a rock band. And coming full circle, the dragon found courage from a Chickapig warrior who “tired of shields and swords to wield” and established a farm. Chickapig game fans will appreciate this fanciful rhyming tale illustrated in attention-grabbing colors, but readers coming to it cold will note a distinct absence of plot. Mouse and dragon present female; all others are male.

Take strength from the dreamers before you and follow your dreams. Or maybe just roll the dice. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7944-4452-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Printers Row

Review Posted Online: Oct. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019


A mildly interesting way to introduce artistic expression to a preschool audience. (Picture book. 4-6)

A child’s inquisitive search for a lost pencil takes him on an imaginary tour.

Missing his favorite blue pencil, a little boy visualizes his way through “the land of lost things.” On his quest he encounters not just his own but a “forest of lost blue pencils.” Ripping a pencil from one of the trees releases a flood of dark blue color that spreads across the page. Wielding an eraser, the boy creates a newly white space to reveal a setting sun, green centipede and a butterfly of many colors—really his lost golden button, comb and scissors. Soon, still wandering in this strange world of mislaid items, the boy finds his flashlight and holey red sock amid a flock of flying ones as he follows the path to “a mountain of mittens” and walks through “a garden of lost umbrellas.” Still unable to find his original blue pencil, a brown one from his pencil box creates a new drawing of inspired adventure. The boy’s inventive exploration is depicted with whimsical art in digital collage, opaque watercolors and markers. The art creates the necessary fanciful atmosphere for this tale, as the bilingual telling lacks verve.

A mildly interesting way to introduce artistic expression to a preschool audience. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: May 31, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-55885-690-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Piñata Books/Arte Público

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2011

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