A spellbinding ode to imagination and the transformative wonder of stories.

Fall into a story.

It’s a dreary, wintry day, and Alice is tired of it and of being inside. But a book catches her attention. “Once upon a time, there was a girl,” it reads. The characters invite her in: “Turn the page and come in….” And in Alice goes, traveling through worlds before eventually returning home. Lin and Messner’s spectacular collaboration celebrates books and reading. Repeated refrains and elements in plot structure make for a rhythmic read-aloud that builds deftly to a heartwarming conclusion. Lin’s signature illustrations, done in gouache, are filled with detail. Full-bleed, double-page spreads as well as close-up, overhead illustrations of the book held by Alice’s hands will immerse readers in the storytelling alongside the protagonist. Lin plays with style to signal the narrative progression. Alice wears a dress made of text-filled book pages, signaling that she’s a child of stories, that transforms into the background of each place she becomes a part of—from the green of jungles and the tan of deserts to the blue, gray, and black of the sky. To similar effect, when Alice turns the page and learns about a new place, the setting is flatter in dimension and simpler, but when she enters it, textures, light, shadows, and more flourish. Details in decor cue Alice and her family as being of Chinese or Taiwanese heritage. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A spellbinding ode to imagination and the transformative wonder of stories. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-316-54107-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2022


Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022


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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