A wonderfully charming mixture of myth and fairy tale.

READ REVIEW

MARCY AND THE RIDDLE OF THE SPHINX

When her brave father is trapped inside the Sphinx, a fearful young girl must summon her courage to save him.

Marcy Brownstone’s father is a brave explorer who, in the previous volume, Arthur and the Golden Rope (2016), had exciting adventures based on Norse mythology. Harboring fears of the dark, Marcy worries she has not been imbued with the same fortitude as her father. When her father leaves on a quest to retrieve a magical book he believes will help her, he becomes trapped inside the Sphinx that holds it. Marcy must now gather up her resolve and carry out his rescue. This extrication is not without its challenges, as Marcy encounters larger-than-life Egyptian gods, including Thoth, Isis, and Ra. Weaving the theme of finding courage with a whimsical mix of Egyptian mythology, Todd-Stanton has constructed a remarkable world that both delights and edifies. The lush, immersive illustrations, with many full-page action sequences, are sure to enchant and envelop readers. Marcy’s white, heteronormative family gives a nod to conventional fairy-tale tropes with her nearly absent mother (who does make a fleeting cameo). However, Todd-Stanton weaves in a gentle feminist flourish as timid Marcy overcomes her fears to save her father and creates a thoughtfully distinctive take on the father-daughter relationship.

A wonderfully charming mixture of myth and fairy tale. (Picture book. 4-10)

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-911171-19-5

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Flying Eye Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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Both a beautiful celebration of black culture and an excellent first black history book for young children.

BLACK IS A RAINBOW COLOR

A young black child ponders the colors in the rainbow and a crayon box and realizes that while black is not a color in the rainbow, black culture is a rainbow of its own.

In bright paints and collage, Holmes shows the rainbow of black skin tones on each page while Joy’s text describes what “Black is” physically and culturally. It ranges from the concrete, such as “the braids in my best friend’s hair,” to the conceptual: “Black is soft-singing, ‘Hush now, don’t explain’ ”—a reference to the song “Don’t Explain” made popular by Billie Holiday and Nina Simone, the former depicted in full song with her signature camellia and the latter at her piano. Joy alludes throughout the brief text to poetry, music, figures, and events in black history, and several pages of backmatter supply the necessary context for caregivers who need a little extra help explaining them to listeners. Additionally, there is a playlist of songs to accompany reading as well as three poems: “Harlem,” by Langston Hughes, and “We Wear the Mask” and “Sympathy,” by Paul Laurence Dunbar. The author also includes a historical timeline describing some of the names that have been used to describe and label black people in the United States since 1619.

Both a beautiful celebration of black culture and an excellent first black history book for young children. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62672-631-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers.

THE CREATURE OF THE PINES

From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 1

Elliot’s first day of school turns out to be more than he bargained for.

Elliot Eisner—skinny and pale with curly brown hair—is a bit nervous about being the new kid. Thankfully, he hits it off with fellow new student, “punk rock”–looking Uchenna Devereaux, a black girl with twists (though they actually look like dreads in Aly’s illustrations). On a first-day field trip to New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, the pair investigates a noise in the trees. The cause? A Jersey Devil: a blue-furred, red-bellied and -winged mythical creature that looks like “a tiny dragon” with cloven hooves, like a deer’s, on its hind feet. Unwittingly, the duo bonds with the creature by feeding it, and it later follows them back to the bus. Unsurprisingly, they lose the creature (which they alternately nickname Jersey and Bonechewer), which forces them to go to their intimidating, decidedly odd teacher, Peruvian Professor Fauna, for help in recovering it. The book closes with Professor Fauna revealing the truth—he heads a secret organization committed to protecting mythical creatures—and inviting the children to join, a neat setup for what is obviously intended to be a series. The predictable plot is geared to newly independent readers who are not yet ready for the usual heft of contemporary fantasies. A brief history lesson given by a mixed-race associate of Fauna’s in which she compares herself to the American “melting pot” manages to come across as simultaneously corrective and appropriative.

Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3170-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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