KRAKEN ME UP

From the I Like To Read Comics series

An unusual pet wins over a crowd.

There’s a contest at the fair, and different children are bringing their pets in hopes of winning. The bespectacled White judge is excited about the “pretty pig” and “fine hen”—and then comes across a brown-skinned child in a yellow slicker, cheerfully holding onto a large green tentacle. “It is a… / KRAKEN!” the judge shrieks in horror as the kraken, an adorable, massive-headed green sea monster, looks abashed, enormous, emotive eyes communicating volumes. All the other children are equally afraid, so the kraken slinks off to sulk in a tiny pond. This early-reader graphic novel is well paced, going a bit into the backstory of the kraken and the child with energetic, brightly colored panels, short sentences, and simple vocabulary. The ultimate triumph—involving the kraken playing around with his own ink and the sudden regurgitation of pirates—is funny and well earned, mixing both familiar children’s insecurities with off-the-wall humor and twists. The illustrations of the kraken pretending to be a spaceship or Groucho Marx are especially delightful, though the few jokes rhyming with “kraken” are a bit eye roll–y. The kraken is appealing and charming, the child is brazen and recognizable, and the overall goofiness mixed with sincerity will win over many a reluctant reader.

A kraken good time. (Graphic early reader. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8234-5017-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Holiday House

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text.

BO'S MAGICAL NEW FRIEND

From the Unicorn Diaries series , Vol. 1

A unicorn learns a friendship lesson in this chapter-book series opener.

Unicorn Bo has friends but longs for a “bestie.” Luckily, a new unicorn pops into existence (literally: Unicorns appear on especially starry nights) and joins Bo at the Sparklegrove School for Unicorns, where they study things like unicorn magic. Each unicorn has a special power; Bo’s is granting wishes. Not knowing what his own might be distresses new unicorn Sunny. When the week’s assignment is to earn a patch by using their unicorn powers to help someone, Bo hopes Sunny will wish to know Bo's power (enabling both unicorns to complete the task, and besides, Bo enjoys Sunny’s company and wants to help him). But when the words come out wrong, Sunny thinks Bo was feigning friendship to get to grant a wish and earn a patch, setting up a fairly sophisticated conflict. Bo makes things up to Sunny, and then—with the unicorns friends again and no longer trying to force their powers—arising circumstances enable them to earn their patches. The cheerful illustrations feature a sherbet palette, using patterns for texture; on busy pages with background colors similar to the characters’ color schemes, this combines with the absence of outlines to make discerning some individual characters a challenge. The format, familiar to readers of Elliott’s Owl Diaries series, uses large print and speech bubbles to keep pages to a manageable amount of text.

A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-32332-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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Weathers heavy themes with breezy sensitivity…and unicorns!

WEATHER TOGETHER

From the Not Quite Narwhal and Friends series

Emotional storm clouds come between two unicorn friends.

Harking back to Not Quite Narwhal (2017) in both cast and tone, Sima offers a friendship tale in which Kelp’s close and aptly named pal Nimbus acquires a dark little cloud that rains when she feels down. The more she tries to ignore it or bottle it up, the bigger it gets…until it finally breaks out in a storm that sends her fleeing all company to huddle alone in a gloomy forest. There, she discovers that recognizing and getting to know the cloud actually makes it shrink—and just as she’s feeling a bit better, Kelp gallops into view, which sets the stage for a joyful reunion depicted in the sweet, softly hued illustrations with an exuberant rainbow swirl. Kelp, who turns out to be “a very good listener,” acknowledges the cloud matter-of-factly, and Nimbus comes to understand that though she may have up days and down days to come, weathering the latter with an accepting friend will make them easier. If some young readers subject to or familiar with similar storms (or a bit foggy on what a metaphor is) need explanation or discussion about depression to clear the air, the comforting message nonetheless shines brightly. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Weathers heavy themes with breezy sensitivity…and unicorns! (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781665916981

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

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