Stronger in feeling than storyline, but the lovin’s only lightly tinged with sentimentality.

SWEET CHILD O' MINE

A rock band’s 1988 hit makes a tender love note from parent to child.

This print version pairs the original song’s lyrics—stripped of lead singer Axl Rose’s wails and most of the repetitive closing breakdown—to neatly composed scenes of a child’s day with loving adults. The outgoing child, first met singing expressively into a flashlight, and an androgynous guitar player step out of their country home to meet a smiling woman, then end up on an outdoor fairground stage before a diverse family audience of a dozen or so. Aside from references to rain reflected in a quick thunderstorm, the plotline is entirely in the pictures. From the opening “She’s got a smile that it seems to me / reminds me of childhood memories” to the climactic “Where do we go now? // Where do we go? // Sweet child,” the sparse but heartfelt lines, as is typical in picture books based on pop songs, don’t make much literal sense. Still, aided by an occasional subtle change in type size, they create a gentle rhythm that suits the overall intimate tone. If Zivoin methodically tucks roses into nearly every illustration, there seem to be no guns. The characters and family situations are portrayed with enough ambiguity to allow multiple interpretations: The guitar-playing caregiver has light skin, and the woman has brown skin; the child’s skin is a smidge darker than the guitar player’s. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

Stronger in feeling than storyline, but the lovin’s only lightly tinged with sentimentality. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-49335-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Jimmy Patterson/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag.

DEAR BEAST

Epistolary dispatches from the eternal canine/feline feud.

Simon the cat is angry. He had done a good job taking care of his boy, Andy, but now that Andy’s parents are divorced, a dog named Baxter has moved into Andy’s dad’s house. Simon believes that there isn’t enough room in Andy’s life for two furry friends, so he uses the power of the pen to get Baxter to move out. Inventively for the early-chapter-book format, the story is told in letters written back and forth; Simon’s are impeccably spelled on personalized stationery while Baxter’s spelling slowly improves through the letters he scrawls on scraps of paper. A few other animals make appearances—a puffy-lipped goldfish who for some reason punctuates her letter with “Blub…blub…” seems to be the only female character (cued through stereotypical use of eyelashes and red lipstick), and a mustachioed snail ferries the mail to and fro. White-appearing Andy is seen playing with both animals as a visual background to the text, as is his friend Noah (a dark-skinned child who perhaps should not be nicknamed “N Man”). Cat lovers will appreciate Simon’s prickliness while dog aficionados will likely enjoy Baxter’s obtuse enthusiasm, and all readers will learn about the time and patience it takes to overcome conflict and jealousy with someone you dislike.

An effective early chapter book conveyed in a slightly overdone gag. (Fiction. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8234-4492-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A second scintillating celebration of personal style and dad-daughter DIY.

THE ONE AND ONLY SPARKELLA MAKES A PLAN

From the Sparkella series , Vol. 2

Reality puts only a temporary damper on big, glittery plans for a sleepover castle.

New school friend Tam, who shared bánh mi at lunch in The One and Only Sparkella (2021), is arriving in two hours, and before that Sparkella needs to make a castle “fit for two royal highnesses.” Unfortunately, even with Dad’s help, the flimsy cardboard construction collapses as soon as Sparkella climbs inside to test it. What to do? After giving the pouting princess some personal time in the garage, Dad points the way: “I think you have to take what you have and make it SPARKLE like only you can.” And, indeed, by the time brown-skinned “Tam, Queen of Kittens” is dropped off by her grandma, a pair of folding tables have been transformed with paint, wrapping paper, and colorful fabrics into the sparkliest castle ever! Laying on saturated colors and sprays of tiny stars with a lavish hand, Barnes depicts the two young “royals” in flamboyantly decorated settings—even Dad’s motorcycle is a dazzling confection awash in bows, and Dad himself, light-skinned like Sparkella, isn’t the least decorative element considering his fondness for sporting a purple boa and outrageous eyewear when occasion demands. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A second scintillating celebration of personal style and dad-daughter DIY. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-75076-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

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