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Inconsistencies in worldbuilding and confused portrayals overshadow this fantasy.

Two kingdoms decide to solve their differences—through dragons.

The kingdom of Arbor is known for its ample trees, orchards, mushrooms, birds, and fruit. Separated from Arbor by a long hedge, Pomosa is famous for its wheat, cattle, and lakes. The citizens of each kingdom often look to the other’s land, desiring the goods they lack. Hearing their parents’ wishes, the children steal the wanted items at night, escalating tensions between the two kings. Both rulers send ambassadors to China to get dragons to defend their territories. The resulting scenes show somewhat stereotypical portrayals of Chinese people (Arbor’s and Pomosa’s residents are diverse). The decision to have the kings travel to a real country feels jarring given that Arbor and Pomosa are fictional. The choice to set part of the book in China is especially odd given that the dragons appear to be European, with relatively short bodies, large wings, and the ability to breathe fire. (Chinese dragons have elongated bodies and are typically tied to water.) The presence of the dragons does halt the thefts, but the kings still demand each other’s goods. Eventually the dragons fight, collapsing in front of the citizens. Both kingdoms decide to forge peace and rid themselves of the selfish kings. The narrative is evenly paced and the artwork attractive, with whimsical landscapes filled with immaculate shading and detailed portraits in a warm pastel palette. However, they can’t overcome the clichéd and inaccurate cultural depictions. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Inconsistencies in worldbuilding and confused portrayals overshadow this fantasy. (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72846-774-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Andersen Press USA

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2022

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From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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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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