Another format-audience mismatch for the Once Upon a World series.



From the Once Upon a World series

This board-book version of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale is set in the Caribbean.

Eliot’s adaptation eliminates some of the more-disturbing plot elements in Andersen’s original, making it feel much closer to the Disney version but with brown-skinned humans and merfolk. Once she’s been given her feet, the Little Mermaid does not feel as though she’s walking on glass and she is not motivated by a desire for an immortal soul, but the heroine still sacrifices her voice, her birth family, and her agency for the love of a rather clueless prince. The Caribbean setting is a good choice for a story in which the sea features prominently. Ortiz’s lush illustrations reflect her Puerto Rican heritage. The sea witch, with her pointy nose, red lips, sharp-angled eyes, hoop earrings, and colorful headwrap is reminiscent of the vejigante masks that are part of carnival in Puerto Rico. However, the small trim size does a disservice to the art. The story has been simplified, but with four to seven lines of text per page, it is still too long for the board-book audience. As with other titles in the series, a larger, picture-book format would help this tale find a receptive audience of school-age children who are able to critique the subtext of the classic story even as they appreciate this version’s gorgeous original art.

Another format-audience mismatch for the Once Upon a World series. (Board book. 2-5)

Pub Date: Dec. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-3575-9

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves


A young child explores the unlimited potential inherent in all humans.

“Have you ever wondered why you are here?” asks the second-person narration. There is no one like you. Maybe you’re here to make a difference with your uniqueness; maybe you will speak for those who can’t or use your gifts to shine a light into the darkness. The no-frills, unrhymed narrative encourages readers to follow their hearts and tap into their limitless potential to be anything and do anything. The precisely inked and colored artwork plays with perspective from the first double-page spread, in which the child contemplates a mountain (or maybe an iceberg) in their hands. Later, they stand on a ladder to place white spots on tall, red mushrooms. The oversized flora and fauna seem to symbolize the presumptively insurmountable, reinforcing the book’s message that anything is possible. This quiet read, with its sophisticated central question, encourages children to reach for their untapped potential while reminding them it won’t be easy—they will make messes and mistakes—but the magic within can help overcome falls and failures. It’s unlikely that members of the intended audience have begun to wonder about their life’s purpose, but this life-affirming mood piece has honorable intentions. The child, accompanied by an adorable piglet and sporting overalls and a bird-beaked cap made of leaves, presents white.

More gift book than storybook, this is a meaningful addition to nursery bookshelves . (Picture book. 2-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-946873-75-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Compendium

Review Posted Online: May 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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Though this celebration of community is joyful, there just is not much here.


A sugary poem, very loosely based on the familiar song, lacks focus.

Using only the refrain from the original (“One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel all right!”), the reggae great’s daughter Cedella Marley sees this song as her “happy song” and adapts it for children. However, the adaptation robs it of life. After the opening lines, readers familiar with the original song (or the tourism advertisement for Jamaica) will be humming along only to be stopped by the bland lines that follow: “One love, what the flower gives the bee.” and then “One love, what Mother Earth gives the tree.” Brantley-Newton’s sunny illustrations perfectly reflect the saccharine quality of the text. Starting at the beginning of the day, readers see a little girl first in bed, under a photograph of Bob Marley, the sun streaming into her room, a bird at the window. Each spread is completely redundant—when the text is about family love, the illustration actually shows little hearts floating from her parents to the little girl. An image of a diverse group getting ready to plant a community garden, walking on top of a river accompanies the words “One love, like the river runs to the sea.”

Though this celebration of community is joyful, there just is not much here. (afterword) (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4521-0224-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Chronicle

Review Posted Online: April 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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