Not much beyond a gimmick, and one that’s suitable only for home libraries.

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TWINS

Die-cut animal shapes invite young artists to fill in traced outlines and create stories around them in this Indian import.

As a drawing game, at least, this is definitely on the minimalist side. Hamir, a Gujarati artist associated with the Indigenous Pithora style, contributes a few large, generic animal shapes—a monkey, a bird, two identical whales, a camel, and a cat—cut into sheets that are interleaved among the pages. These can be flipped right and left so that facing titular “twins” can be traced onto pages that are otherwise largely blank except for scattered dots, a few small geometric shapes, lightly traced figures, and, in one spread, a set of empty dialogue balloons, all added by Shah. Wolf supplies five instructional story prompts in small type that progress from a simple “What happens next?” to more developed, and promising, scenarios (“Oops! He’s eaten his twin’s meal! Draw what happens next”). The book concludes with a general invitation to conjure a story from scratch on a totally blank final page. Young yarn-spinners may enjoy the exercises, but they aren’t going to come away with any sense of Pithora motifs or the traditional stories they are typically created to tell.

Not much beyond a gimmick, and one that’s suitable only for home libraries. (Coloring book. 4-6)

Pub Date: June 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-93-83145-71-3

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Tara Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 11, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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Fun, fun, fun all through the town! (Picture book. 4-6)

THE HIPS ON THE DRAG QUEEN GO SWISH, SWISH, SWISH

This book’s gonna werk, werk, werk all through Pride Month and beyond.

Drag persona Lil Miss Hot Mess rewrites “The Wheels on the Bus” to create a fun, movement-filled, family-friendly celebration of drag. The text opens with the titular verse to establish the familiar song’s formulaic pattern: “The hips on the drag queen go SWISH, SWISH, SWISH… / ALL THROUGH THE TOWN!” Along the way, more and more drag queens join in the celebration. The unnamed queens proudly display a range of skin tones, sizes, and body modifications to create a diverse cast of realistic characters that could easily be spotted at a Pride event or on RuPaul’s Drag Race. The palette of both costumes and backgrounds is appropriately psychedelic, and there are plenty of jewels going “BLING, BLING, BLING.” Don’t tell the queens, but the flow is the book’s real star, because it encourages natural kinetic participation that will have groups of young readers giggling and miming along with the story. Libraries and bookshops hosting drag-queen storytimes will find this a popular choice, and those celebrating LGBTQ heritage will also find this a useful book for the pre-K crowd. Curious children unfamiliar with a drag queen may require a brief explanation, but the spectacle stands up just fine on its own platforms.

Fun, fun, fun all through the town! (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7624-6765-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Running Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A lightweight fear-dispeller, without the gun violence that now makes Mercer Mayer’s There’s a Nightmare in My Closet (1968)...

MONSTERS AREN'T REAL

Beaten down by a ubiquitous chorus of denials (see title), a monster suffers an existential crisis.

Surrounded by emphatic claims that it doesn’t even exist, a monster sets out not only to prove the contrary, but to establish its scariness credentials too. Alas, neither blasting the world with graffiti and printed fliers nor rearing up menacingly over a baby in a carriage, children at the barre in a ballet class and other supposedly susceptible victims elicits any response. Juggling some cows attracts attention but not the terrified kind. But the monster’s final despairing surrender—“That’s it! It’s over! I give up! ... /  Monsters aren’t real (sniff)”—triggers an indignant denial of a different sort from a second, smaller but wilder-looking, creature. It takes the first in hand and leads it off, declaring “We’re two big, strong, scary monsters, and we’ll prove it.” In truth, it won’t escape even very young readers that neither is particularly scary-looking. Indeed, the protagonist-monster is depicted in the sparsely detailed cartoon illustrations as a furry, almost cuddly, bearlike hulk with light-blue spots, antlers and comically googly eyes, certain to provoke more giggles than screams.

A lightweight fear-dispeller, without the gun violence that now makes Mercer Mayer’s There’s a Nightmare in My Closet (1968) so discomfiting. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61067-073-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Kane Miller

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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