A fun pair of characters and a good friendship lesson make for a worthy dragon tale.

OZZIE & PRINCE ZEBEDEE

The friendship of a dragon and a boy is tested by an act of anger.

Ozzie, a big green dragon, and Prince Zebedee, a tan-skinned boy with curly dark hair, are great friends who “made beautiful music together” and “kept each other’s feet warm” cuddling at night. But a card game at the edge of a forest creates a rift in the relationship when the prince accuses Ozzie of cheating. Ozzie, angered, eats the prince. The prince is safely, stubbornly inside the dragon’s huge belly, but he still refuses to speak to Ozzie. Ozzie, saddened, eats up chunks of a village, because “sometimes when dragons are lonely, they make bad choices.” Of course, the two eventually reconcile; the town and Ozzie are regurgitated but not before both friends learn a little about anger management and forgiveness. Digital artist Kalaitzidis’ debut picture book is most notable for the expressiveness of its characters. Whether they are furious or blissfully at play, Ozzie and Zebedee make a charming pair against detail-filled, clever backgrounds. An older, tan-skinned character seen knitting in the backgrounds of many pages, for instance, appears to be Kalaitzidis herself, judging from the cover-flap author picture. While the text never quite soars, the illustrations and the overall story feel true and relatable even if most friends don’t eat each other. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A fun pair of characters and a good friendship lesson make for a worthy dragon tale. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-46418-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

CARPENTER'S HELPER

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride.

THE PIGEON WILL RIDE THE ROLLER COASTER!

The Pigeon is on an emotional—and physical—roller coaster.

Since learning about the existence of roller coasters, he’s become giddy with excitement. The Pigeon prepares mentally: He’ll need a ticket and “exemplary patience” to wait in line. He envisions zooming up and down and careening through dizzying turns and loops. Then, he imagines his emotions afterward: exhilaration, post-ride blues, pride at having accomplished such a feat, and enthusiasm at the prospect of riding again. (He’ll also feel dizzy and nauseous.) All this before the Pigeon ever sets claw on an actual coaster. So…will he really try it? Are roller coasters fun? When the moment comes, everything seems to go according to plan: waiting in line, settling into the little car, THEN—off he goes! Though the ride itself isn’t quite what the Pigeon expected, it will delight readers. Wearing his feelings on his wing and speaking directly to the audience in first person, the Pigeon describes realistic thoughts and emotions about waiting and guessing about the unknown—common childhood experiences. No sentiment is misplaced; kids will relate to Pigeon’s eagerness and apprehension. The ending falls somewhat flat, but the whole humorous point is that an underwhelming adventure can still be thrilling enough to warrant repeating. Willems’ trademark droll illustrations will have readers giggling. The roller-coaster attendant is light-skinned. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Roller-coaster enthusiasts or not, children will eagerly join our intrepid hero on this entertaining ride. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-4549-4686-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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