A cheery subversion of fairy-tale tropes.

A dragon really wants to meet a princess, but the princess has her own agenda.

Izmelda, a chubby green dragon in a pink princess dress and pearls, flies off to the nearest kingdom in search of a princess—but Penelope, the princess she finds, is on her way to jester class, and she’s in a hurry to get there before the witches catch up to her. Penelope has brown skin, black hair, polka-dot overalls, and sneakers—not glass slippers—and she’s frustrated by Izmelda’s enthusiasm for typical fairy-tale princess tropes and by the many fans who follow her around. However, Izmelda’s dedication—and her wings—comes in handy when the witches catch up to them, and a friendship is born. Some illustrations are full bleed, while others are vignettes. Izmelda is downright adorable—even her teeth are rounded, not pointy, making for a very gentle story. (The witches’ hats are pointy, but even they don’t pose a threat worse than a delay.) Whether readers empathize more with fairy-tale–loving Izmelda or independent Penelope, they will enjoy the humorous dynamic, the eventual friendship, and the reminder that it’s important to make time for cupcakes (the endpapers feature an array). The ending isn’t quite as satisfying as the buildup, but readers will be pleased to see that it leaves room for a sequel. Human characters are racially diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A cheery subversion of fairy-tale tropes. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-4549-4352-5

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Union Square Kids

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2022


A delicious triumph over fear of night creatures.

Pippa conquers a fear of the creatures that emerge from her storybooks at night.

Pippa’s “wonderfully wild imagination” can sometimes run “a little TOO wild.” During the day, she wears her “armor” and is a force to be reckoned with. But in bed at night, Pippa worries about “villains and monsters and beasts.” Sharp-toothed and -taloned shadows, dragons, and pirates emerge from her storybooks like genies from a bottle, just to scare her. Pippa flees to her parents’ room only to be brought back time and again. Finally, Pippa decides that she “needs a plan” to “get rid of them once and for all.” She decides to slip a written invitation into every book, and that night, they all come out. She tries subduing them with a lasso, an eye patch, and a sombrero, but she is defeated. Next, she tries “sashes and sequins and bows,” throwing the fashion pieces on the monsters, who…“begin to pose and primp and preen.” After that success, their fashion show becomes a nightly ritual. Clever Pippa’s transformation from scared victim of her own imagination to leader of the monster pack feels fairly sudden, but it’s satisfying nonetheless. The cartoony illustrations effectively use dynamic strokes, shadow, and light to capture action on the page and the feeling of Pippa's fears taking over her real space. Pippa and her parents are brown-skinned with curls of various textures.

A delicious triumph over fear of night creatures. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-9300-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019


Warm but underdone.

In this picture book from actor Gyllenhaal and his partner, Caruso, a child and his uncle bond on a fantastic journey.

Leo, an avid dancer, is dismayed when Uncle Mo visits—he’s in town for a “rubber band convention.” Illustrations show both with wavy brown hair and light tan skin. Not only does Leo think his uncle is rather dull, he’s also leery of Uncle Mo’s many rules. A rather abrupt narrative shift occurs when the pair inexplicably drive into another dimension. Here they encounter Great-Aunt Gloria (who is very tall and presents Black) and Uncle Munkle Carbunkle (who is very short and light-skinned), who guide them through the Secret Society of Aunts & Uncles. Unimpressed with Uncle Mo, Great-Aunt Gloria says he must take a quiz on “Auntieology and Uncleology.” After several wrong answers, Uncle Mo has a final chance at redemption: He must state his nephew’s favorite activity. When Leo springs into action to dance for his clueless uncle, a mishap leaves him mortified and un-bespectacled. Enter Uncle Mo to save the day by using a rubber band to secure Leo’s glasses. While Santat’s energetic illustrations do much to clarify the narrative, they can’t fully make up for the disjointed storytelling—it’s never clear why the two have entered this dimension or why Leo is suddenly so eager to help Uncle Mo. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Warm but underdone. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781250776990

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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