Colorful, amusing, and well-told with text and illustrations working perfectly together.

PEPPER ZHANG, ARTIST EXTRAORDINAIRE!

A rambunctious 3-year-old Asian girl whose artwork gains acclaim gets a big head—literally—in this children’s picture book.

Pepper Zhang is enjoying the day of her third birthday so much that she just doesn’t want to go to bed, so she throws a giant tantrum. But then she catches sight of the one birthday gift she hasn’t played with yet: a paint box and easel. Pepper paints angry, broad-stroked red swirls that reflect her big emotions in a work she titles “Red Dino Destroys Bedtime!” (A nice touch is illustrator Hautéa’s “artist’s interpretation” of Pepper’s abstract swirls.) As time goes on, Pepper paints more pictures and has fewer tantrums. Her bedroom becomes a private art gallery that becomes famous, Pepper’s fans proclaiming her to be an “Artist Extraordinaire!” But as Pepper’s fame grows, so does her head, until it’s so large that it interferes with her painting. Pepper decides to close her gallery, take a break from being famous, and focus on being a normal 3-year-old. Be reassured, though: “We have a feeling she’ll be making a comeback!” It’s hard to find picture books featuring contemporary Asian children in the United States, so with the delightful Pepper, debut author Zhang helps fill a gap. Pepper’s parents respect her outsized emotions and personality while gently helping her grow up—a good balance. Hautéa’s illustrations are well-suited for the subject with their bright colors, playful style, and well-observed details.

Colorful, amusing, and well-told with text and illustrations working perfectly together.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little Ning Books, LLC

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

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Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires.

LITTLE BLUE TRUCK'S VALENTINE

Little Blue Truck feels, well, blue when he delivers valentine after valentine but receives nary a one.

His bed overflowing with cards, Blue sets out to deliver a yellow card with purple polka dots and a shiny purple heart to Hen, one with a shiny fuchsia heart to Pig, a big, shiny, red heart-shaped card to Horse, and so on. With each delivery there is an exchange of Beeps from Blue and the appropriate animal sounds from his friends, Blue’s Beeps always set in blue and the animal’s vocalization in a color that matches the card it receives. But as Blue heads home, his deliveries complete, his headlight eyes are sad and his front bumper droops ever so slightly. Blue is therefore surprised (but readers may not be) when he pulls into his garage to be greeted by all his friends with a shiny blue valentine just for him. In this, Blue’s seventh outing, it’s not just the sturdy protagonist that seems to be wilting. Schertle’s verse, usually reliable, stumbles more than once; stanzas such as “But Valentine’s Day / didn’t seem much fun / when he didn’t get cards / from anyone” will cause hitches during read-alouds. The illustrations, done by Joseph in the style of original series collaborator Jill McElmurry, are pleasant enough, but his compositions often feel stiff and forced.

Little Blue Truck keeps on truckin’—but not without some backfires. (Board book. 1-4)

Pub Date: Dec. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-27244-1

Page Count: 20

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 19, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs.

WRECKING BALL

From the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series , Vol. 14

The Heffley family’s house undergoes a disastrous attempt at home improvement.

When Great Aunt Reba dies, she leaves some money to the family. Greg’s mom calls a family meeting to determine what to do with their share, proposing home improvements and then overruling the family’s cartoonish wish lists and instead pushing for an addition to the kitchen. Before bringing in the construction crew, the Heffleys attempt to do minor maintenance and repairs themselves—during which Greg fails at the work in various slapstick scenes. Once the professionals are brought in, the problems keep getting worse: angry neighbors, terrifying problems in walls, and—most serious—civil permitting issues that put the kibosh on what work’s been done. Left with only enough inheritance to patch and repair the exterior of the house—and with the school’s dismal standardized test scores as a final straw—Greg’s mom steers the family toward moving, opening up house-hunting and house-selling storylines (and devastating loyal Rowley, who doesn’t want to lose his best friend). While Greg’s positive about the move, he’s not completely uncaring about Rowley’s action. (And of course, Greg himself is not as unaffected as he wishes.) The gags include effectively placed callbacks to seemingly incidental events (the “stress lizard” brought in on testing day is particularly funny) and a lampoon of after-school-special–style problem books. Just when it seems that the Heffleys really will move, a new sequence of chaotic trouble and property destruction heralds a return to the status quo. Whew.

Readers can still rely on this series to bring laughs. (Graphic/fiction hybrid. 8-12)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3903-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

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