A joyful, silly tale for the adventurer, boy or girl, young or old: medieval mayhem at its best.

THE SWORD IN THE STOVE

Two chefs solve one big mystery (albeit too late!) in this humorous spoof on the knight-and-dragon tale.

It’s mealtime, but where is Harold? Two cooks wonder about their knightly friend—but readers are in the know. He was last seen racing across the title page, searching for the loo. So onward the pair go until: “Holy haddock!” There’s a sword in the stove. Who could’ve put it there? Pirates? The absurdity builds (and so do the laughs) as the oven yields additional items. The pumpkin-headed chefs, like a classic comedy duo, play off each other, channeling Laurel and Hardy in both physique and demeanor; the author juxtaposes their differences to maximum effect. When the two agree the sword is Harold’s and his fate a dire one, a fiery whoosh interrupts the question of who would do such a thing. A hungry (and adorable-looking) dragon ready for dessert, that’s who! Young readers need not fear, as the last page reveals the chefs and Harold still alive, with a giggle-inducing punch line. Dormer’s illustrations fuel the text with their spontaneity and engaging compositions. His primitive watercolor shapes, expressive pencil marks, and clever use of a limited, warm palette reveal a sophisticated control of the medium. Through both text and art, he offers something for everyone (pirates! Vikings! inventive expletives! silliness!). Brilliantly designed down to a typeface that alludes to the story’s legendary associations, this book establishes itself as thoroughly modern.

A joyful, silly tale for the adventurer, boy or girl, young or old: medieval mayhem at its best. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4814-3167-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

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Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed.

YOU DON'T WANT A DRAGON!

If you thought having a unicorn as a pet was hard, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tried owning a dragon.

The young protagonist of You Don’t Want a Unicorn! (2017) is back, and they clearly haven’t learned their lesson. Now they’ve wished for a pet dragon. As the intrusive narrator is quick to point out, everything about it seems fun at the beginning. However, it’s not long before the doglike dragon starts chasing squirrels, drooling, pooping (ever wondered where charcoal comes from?), scooting its butt across the floor (leaving fire and flames behind), and more. By now, the dragon has grown too huge to keep, so the child (who appears white and also to live alone) wishes it away and settles for a cute little hamster instead. A perfect pet…until it finds a stray magical cupcake. Simple cartoon art and a surfeit of jokes about defecation suggest this book will find an appreciative audience. The dragon/dog equivalences are cute on an initial read, but they may not be strong enough to convince anyone to return. Moreover, a surprising amount of the plot hinges on having read the previous book in this series (it’s the only way readers will know that cupcakes are unicorn poop).

Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53580-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A slim, feel-good story, as light and airy as the rainbows that grace its pages.

NOT QUITE NARWHAL

Being true to yourself means embracing differences and striding (or paddling) fearlessly into the world.

Emerging from a giant clam, baby unicorn Kelp lives among narwhals, believing he’s just not as good as everyone else at swimming, appreciating a squid dinner, or breathing underwater (he sports a glass diving helmet—with a gasket-encircled hole for his horn). Swept close to shore one day, he spies for the first time an adult unicorn and, struck by the resemblance to himself, totters onto solid ground. The “land narwhals” explain to him that they—and he—are unicorns. Kelp’s blissful new life of learning to do special unicorn things amid sparkles and rainbows is punctuated by sadness over the narwhal friends he left behind. Upon returning to his watery home, Kelp learns that the narwhals knew all along that he was actually a unicorn. Following a brief internal tussle over where he truly belongs, Kelp recognizes that he doesn’t have to be just one thing or another and happily unites his friends at the shoreline. As seen in Sima’s soft, digital illustrations, Kelp is adorable, and she evokes both undersea and aboveground environments artfully. The message is an appealing one that could speak to many family situations relating to multiple identities, but the central dilemma is resolved so quickly and easily that there is little room for emotional engagement.

A slim, feel-good story, as light and airy as the rainbows that grace its pages. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6909-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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