A disappointing example of exoticization.


City kid Theo narrates their father’s trip to “the mother of all jungles”—as well as the young protagonist’s own silly attempts to pantomime the Indigenous ways of life relayed in their father’s tales.

For example: When Theo learns that “the people in the jungle” include tucus (a variety of large worms) in their diet, the curious child heads for the garden to “[dig] up some earthworms.” The text grows more serious when the storyteller’s father describes the jungle’s environmental plight: the dwindling of the harpy eagle and ranching-induced deforestation. Enchanted by stories of the jungle’s Native population and the spirits who live among them, Theo declares, “If I go to the jungle one day, I’ll tell the spirits that I love them and ask them to come over.” Meanwhile, illustrator Decis depicts Indigenous spirits as white, round-faced creatures with wings and two twigs coming out of their heads; it’s unclear whether this rendering has any resemblance to how Sápara people (identified by name only in the backmatter) view their own spirits. Sadly, Sápara people and their Amazonian home are flattened in this narrative despite the author’s gestures at self-reflection. In a book focusing on the struggles of a Native people, the acknowledgment page and author’s note spend more time applauding the Spanish researcher in charge of Gusti’s expedition into the Amazon for “her inexhaustible struggle to save the South American jungle.”

A disappointing example of exoticization. (publisher’s note, epilogue) (Picture book. 6-9)

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77164-670-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Greystone Kids

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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


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.


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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