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Fun, clever, and empowering, this is the rare case of a sequel that outshines its predecessor.

Sophia proves she’s not only a gifted linguist and negotiator (One Word from Sophia, 2015), but a brilliant engineer, as well.

Endpapers (cleverly oriented to require a height-emphasizing 90-degree turn) open the book with “giraffacts” that are referenced in the story. Sophia’s birthday wish from the previous installment has been fulfilled, but she’s “happysad”: It seems that “giraffe-size problems” come with Noodle, her kiss-happy, snoring One True Desire. Ismail’s expressive, hilarious watercolor-and–colored-pencil illustrations once again shine. Noodle has a long tongue—the giraffacts state it’s about 20 inches long—which makes his liquid kisses less-than-welcome to many members of Sophia’s interracial family. Though Noodle is “especially fond of Grand-mamá,” she is decidedly not a fan of his “sloppy” kisses. Neither is the family dog, who, dismayed and disgusted, is lifted right off the ground by Noodle’s extralong tongue! With Noodle’s snoring keeping the entire family awake, Sophia’s jurist mother gives her a directive: “to find a perdurable solution to his problems” (the first of many synonyms for “permanent”). That’s all Sophia needs to let her incredible engineering skills shine. First, she wisely consults an expert, an acoustical engineer, depicted as a woman of color. When at first she doesn’t succeed, Sophia, who has brown skin and wears her hair in two Afro-puff ponytails, perseveres until she finds an abiding solution.

Fun, clever, and empowering, this is the rare case of a sequel that outshines its predecessor. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-9)

Pub Date: June 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-4814-7788-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: McElderry

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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