Shannon and Fearing combine their considerable talents to create a most bewitching tale of self-confidence and perseverance.



When young witch Cordelia enters a spelling bee, not only does she need to rely on her skills as an accomplished speller, but she must also use her wits to foil the competition…in the nicest way possible.

Cordelia really loves spelling and is quite good at it, but Mama thinks she may be too young to enter the Witches’ Double Spelling Bee. The contest is held only once every 10 years, and Cordelia wants to try. “I’ve studied. I’ve practiced. I’m ready to win!” Little does Cordelia know that the most recent winner, mean-spirited Beulah Divine, intends to keep her 130-year-long winning streak going. The night of the bee arrives, and the rules are clear. When called, the contestant selects a letter from a bowl, then must “choose something onstage and spell it. Using the letter…picked, cast a spell that transforms what you choose into something new. Spell the new word.” Cordelia impresses the crowd by using the “R” she selected to transform a “S-H-O-E into a H-O-R-S-E.” At the end, it’s down to sweet Cordelia and vicious Beulah. Other witches might be cowed, but Cordelia believes in herself. She pulls out an “R” to zap Beulah, who is a F-I-E-N-D, and change her into a F-R-I-E-N-D.

Shannon and Fearing combine their considerable talents to create a most bewitching tale of self-confidence and perseverance. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-15-206696-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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Aims high but falls flat.


Through 20 short poems, Maestro Mouse invites readers to meet a series of animals who have lessons to impart and a symphony to perform.

Brown, author of The DaVinci Code (2003) and other wildly popular titles for adults, here offers young listeners a poetry collection accompanied by music: a “symphony” performed, for readers equipped with an audio device and an internet connection, by the Zagreb Festival Orchestra. From the introduction of the conductor and the opening “Woodbird Welcome” to the closing “Cricket Lullaby,” the writer/composer uses poems made of three to eight rhyming couplets, each line with four strong beats, to introduce the animals who will be revealed in the final double gatefold as the players in an all-animal orchestra. Each poem also contains a lesson, reinforced by a short message (often on a banner or signpost). Thus, “When life trips them up a bit, / Cats just make the best of it” concludes the poem “Clumsy Kittens,” which is encapsulated by “Falling down is part of life. The best thing to do is get back on your feet!” The individual songs and poems may appeal to the intended audience, but collectively they don’t have enough variety to be read aloud straight through. Nor does the gathering of the orchestra provide a narrative arc. Batori’s cartoon illustrations are whimsically engaging, however. They include puzzles: hard-to-find letters that are said to form anagrams of instrument names and a bee who turns up somewhere in every scene.

Aims high but falls flat. (Complete composition not available for review.) (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12384-3

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Rodale Kids

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.


A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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