The humor feels accidental here, with illustrations that fail to establish a consistent visual subtext.

BAD GUY

Another wannabe bad guy.

“I am a bad guy,” announces an adorable little kid with Asian features as he strokes a white cat. Few young readers will pick up this James Bond reference, a slip that’s emblematic of the uneasy relationship between the book’s text and its illustrations, which can’t seem to decide whether to be literal or metaphorical. “On Monday I trapped all the superheroes in a giant cage with a bunch of hungry lions.” Strangely, the three lions are outside the cage, an upended laundry basket. Tuesday he is a pirate who ties his sister to a tree, and Wednesday he becomes a giant and “swallow[s] some astronauts whole.” In neither pirate nor astronaut image does there seem to be a relationship between an imagined world and the real one. Thursday he runs the sheriff (sister Alice again) out of town while astride what looks like a rocking horse. “On Friday, I ate Alice’s brain”—a winner of an image, with a plate of spaghetti and meatballs on poor Alice’s head and a truly evil-looking brother shoveling handfuls into his mouth. Saturday they go to the library. The “bad guy” finds books on applied badness, while Alice takes out Eat, Prey, Love—another reference to fly over the audience’s heads. Later, the “bad guy” gets hoist with his own petard in a feminist ending that does little to help the book cohere.

The humor feels accidental here, with illustrations that fail to establish a consistent visual subtext. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-6010-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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The tips garnered here could be used to scare just about anyone, and for those scared of ghosts, at least your carpets will...

HOW TO SCARE A GHOST

From the How To... series

Reagan and Wildish continue their How to… series with this Halloween-themed title.

If you’ve ever had a hankering to scare a ghost, this handbook is what you need. In it, a pair of siblings shows readers “how to attract a ghost” (they like creepily carved pumpkins and glitter), identify a ghost (real ghosts “never, ever open doors”), and scare a ghost (making faces, telling scary stories). Also included is a warning not to go too far—a vacuum is over-the-top on the scary chart for ghosts. Once you’ve calmed your ghost again, it’s time to play (just not hide-and-seek or on a trampoline) and then decide on costumes for trick-or-treating. Your ghost will also need to learn Halloween etiquette (knocking instead of floating through doors). The title seems a little misleading considering only two spreads are dedicated to trying to scare a ghost, but the package as a whole is entertaining. Wildish’s digital cartoon illustrations are as bright as ever, and the brother and sister duo have especially expressive faces. Both are white-presenting, as are all the other characters except for some kids in the very last spread.

The tips garnered here could be used to scare just about anyone, and for those scared of ghosts, at least your carpets will be clean from all the vacuuming. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 21, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5247-0190-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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