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Nostalgic Nancy Drew fans will likely deem this experimental picture book a failed homage, and it will certainly disappoint...

Pam, Bess, and Bess’ younger sister, Sue, visit a museum after hours for a celebration of the “publication of the first of the Nancy Drew mystery books” in this picture book based on a story originally published in 1980 in the New Yorker.

Although The Mystery of the Old Clock was originally published in 1930, Cortés does not set the story during the Depression: The girls—all three are black—wear modern casual clothing, and one appears to be holding a smartphone. When Pam climbs the stairs for a better vantage point from which to peer at the guests, she points out something shocking. Pam and Bess are aghast at whatever it is, but little sister Sue (and readers) remains clueless. Frustratingly, the pictures depict only their changing expressions over pages and pages and not what they actually see—though the last page might offer a visual hint. The stilted vocabulary seems to date back to Carolyn Keene’s characters of that era: “querulous,” “milling about,” “bilious,” and “hypers” (an exclamation), all incongruous with the characters’ ages. Worse, one textual descriptor of Bess clashes with her depiction as a girl with dark brown skin: “her face turning first a ghostly white, then a vivid red.” For white Bess Marvin, friend of Nancy Drew, this is possible, but blushing would not result in such a color change in a character with skin this dark. The color palette of the illustrations seems as dated as the museum—another reason this book will likely fail to appeal to young readers.

Nostalgic Nancy Drew fans will likely deem this experimental picture book a failed homage, and it will certainly disappoint young sleuths in search of a real mystery. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61775-716-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Black Sheep/Akashic

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.

Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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Cuándo quieras un perro feliz, look no further.

A young Latine boy finally gets to rescue the dog of his dreams, but training can be a challenge in two languages.

Like many children, José has been dreaming of having a pet of his own, specifically un perro, a dog. Like any good owner, José promptly begins training his new canine companion but soon realizes his rescue mutt, Feliz, knows only words in English. This is a problem because in José’s home everyone speaks both Spanish and English. José and Feliz must rise to the challenge; fortunately, treats and snuggles are great motivators. The narrative uses Spanish words and phrases throughout (“perros blancos,” “¡Yo quiero este!” “¡Sientate!”), usually with English context clues for understanding. This is complex vocabulary for an early reader, and the shifting in phonics from English to Spanish will be challenging for true beginners; the book is best suited for intermediate to advanced readers in dual-language classrooms or homes. Much like Feliz, however, it is sure to find a loving (and bilingual) home. Cheerful illustrations complement the text, helping readers make sense of the narrative. While José and his mother are darker-skinned, his father and sister are lighter-skinned. (This review has been updated for accuracy.)

Cuándo quieras un perro feliz, look no further. (glossary of Spanish-English words) (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-593-52116-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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