LILLYBELLE

A DAMSEL NOT IN DISTRESS

A damsel-in-training saves her own skin.

LillyBelle adores tea parties, but she is not the standard student at Lady Frilly’s School for Damsels: She enjoys playing loud music and baking absurdly tall cakes. LillyBelle also refuses to accept Lady Frilly’s lesson that damsels are meant to be kidnapped and saved, never to properly fend for themselves. One day, while out playing hopscotch, LillyBelle is abducted by a witch, but LillyBelle isn’t afraid. Instead of waiting for a prince or a knight or a wizard to save her, LillyBelle takes matters into her own hands to decide her own fate. But for LillyBelle, escaping the witch is just the beginning of a long journey back home that finds her using her baking skills, fondness for loud music, and even Lady Frilly’s deportment lessons to return home unharmed. Pastro effectively uses both the traditional rule of three and oft-seen fairy-tale characters to subvert a particularly pernicious fairy-tale trope. The picture book’s lessons of self-empowerment, the importance of dialogue, and the value of understanding are efficiently rendered, aided by rounded, earth-toned illustrations that create a grounded fairy-tale world little readers will enjoy. LillyBelle has beige skin and fluffy black hair; her classmates are somewhat diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 13% of actual size.)

An empowering fairy tale. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63592-296-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

THIS BOOK IS GRAY

A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed.

YOU DON'T WANT A DRAGON!

If you thought having a unicorn as a pet was hard, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve tried owning a dragon.

The young protagonist of You Don’t Want a Unicorn! (2017) is back, and they clearly haven’t learned their lesson. Now they’ve wished for a pet dragon. As the intrusive narrator is quick to point out, everything about it seems fun at the beginning. However, it’s not long before the doglike dragon starts chasing squirrels, drooling, pooping (ever wondered where charcoal comes from?), scooting its butt across the floor (leaving fire and flames behind), and more. By now, the dragon has grown too huge to keep, so the child (who appears white and also to live alone) wishes it away and settles for a cute little hamster instead. A perfect pet…until it finds a stray magical cupcake. Simple cartoon art and a surfeit of jokes about defecation suggest this book will find an appreciative audience. The dragon/dog equivalences are cute on an initial read, but they may not be strong enough to convince anyone to return. Moreover, a surprising amount of the plot hinges on having read the previous book in this series (it’s the only way readers will know that cupcakes are unicorn poop).

Feels like a retread—it may be time to put this series to bed. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53580-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more