Though it could easily feel preachy, this charmingly subversive tale instead offers a simple yet powerful story of the...

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JULIÁN IS A MERMAID

Julián knows he’s a mermaid.

On the el with his abuela, Afro-Latinx Julián looks on, entranced, as three mermaids enter their car. Instantly enamored, Julián imagines himself a mermaid. In a sequence of wordless double-page spreads, the watercolor, gouache, and ink art—perfect for this watercentric tale—depicts adorable Julián’s progression from human to mermaid: reading his book on the el with water rushing in, then swimming in that water and freeing himself from the constraints of human clothing as his hair grows longer (never losing its texture). When Julián discovers he has a mermaid tail, his charming expressions make his surprise and delight palpable. At home, Julián tells Abuela that he, too, is a mermaid; Abuela admonishes him to “be good” while she takes a bath. A loose interpretation of being “good” could include what happens next as Julián decides to act out his “good idea”: He sheds his clothes (all except undies), ties fern fronds and flowers to his headband, puts on lipstick, and fashions gauzy, flowing curtains into a mermaid tail. When Abuela emerges with a disapproving look, readers may think Julián is in trouble—but a twist allows for a story of recognition and approval of his gender nonconformity. Refreshingly, Spanish words aren’t italicized.

Though it could easily feel preachy, this charmingly subversive tale instead offers a simple yet powerful story of the importance of being seen and affirmed. (Picture book. 3-8)

Pub Date: May 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-9045-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Young readers will hunt out this enjoyable crowd pleaser again and again.

WE'RE GOING ON A GOON HUNT

Hunt for a bear? That’s so yesterday.

On a spooky Halloween night, we’re hunting for…a green GOON. We’re not really scared. Let’s start in a pumpkin patch. We can’t go over or under it, so we’ll just go through it. We’ll do the same in other likely goon hideouts: a swamp, a tunnel, a forest, a graveyard, and, finally, a haunted house. In this atmospheric “petrifying parody” of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, a dad and his four kids, dressed in Halloween finery and accompanied by their costumed pup, search for the elusive quarry. They become more frightened (particularly dad and pooch, even from the outset) as they proceed along the increasingly murky path—except for the youngest, unicorn-outfitted child, who squeals a delighted welcome to whatever creature unexpectedly materializes. As in the classic original, evocative sound effects (“Gurgle hiss, gurgle hiss, gurgle hiss!”) ring out as the quintet moves through each hazard. Unsurprisingly, the group locates the goon, forcing them to retrace their steps home in a frenzied hurry, odd noises and all. They reach safety to discover…uh-oh! Meanwhile, someone’s missing but having a ball! Even readers who’ve never read or heard about the bear expedition will appreciate this clever, comical, fast-paced take. The colorful line illustrations are humorously brooding and sweetly endearing, with the family (all members present White) portrayed as growing steadily apprehensive. (This book was reviewed digitally with 8.5-by-20.8-inch double-page spreads viewed at 74.6% of actual size.)

Young readers will hunt out this enjoyable crowd pleaser again and again. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-984813-62-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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