Whimsical fantasy with the right amount of speed and cleverness for the audience.

WILLA THE WISP

From the Fabled Stables series , Vol. 1

A series opener about a caretaker of stables for magical and odd creatures.

Auggie is the caretaker of the mysterious Professor Cake’s Fabled Stables, home to one-of-a-kind creatures of all sorts. As the only boy on Professor Cake’s private island, Auggie’s lonely—the closest thing he has to friends are Miss Bundt (who he suspects was once a pirate) and Fen, a literal stick in the mud (who transforms to aid Auggie in his jobs and is not keen on friendship). One day, a new stall suddenly appears in the stables, meaning a soon-to-arrive creature is in trouble and needs rescue. Auggie must use his cleverness and resources to rescue Willa—a playful, shape-shifting, newborn wisp—from three robed hunters. When the hunters catch them and threaten Willa to try to get at a nonexistent treasure, Auggie cleverly tricks them and summons a rescue from a not-as-apathetic-as-he-pretends Fen. But back at the stables, Willa’s still not out of danger—wisps are moon creatures that only last for one night….The straightforward plot never allows tension to simmer too long without relief for the young audience; add in the comedically inventive creatures, and this book is calibrated to please. The full-color artwork throughout is vibrant in its shading and dreamy in execution, physically grounding the story while enhancing its fantastical otherworldliness. Auggie is depicted with beige skin and brown, curly hair and Mrs. Bundt with blue skin and hair; the hunters are diverse both racially and in gender.

Whimsical fantasy with the right amount of speed and cleverness for the audience. (Fantasy. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4197-4269-9

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Amulet/Abrams

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE SCHOOLS

From the My Purple World series

A color-themed vision of what school should be like.

In what amounts to a rehash of The World Needs More Purple People (2020), Bell and Hart address adult as well as young readers to explain what “curious and kind you” can do to make school, or for that matter the universe, a better place. Again culminating in the vague but familiar “JUST. BE. YOU!” the program remains much the same—including asking questions both “universe-sized” (“Could you make a burrito larger than a garbage truck?”) and “smaller, people-sized” (i.e., personal), working hard to learn and make things, offering praise and encouragement, speaking up and out, laughing together, and listening to others. In the illustrations, light-skinned, blond-haired narrator Penny poses amid a busy, open-mouthed, diverse cast that includes a child wearing a hijab and one who uses a wheelchair. Wiseman opts to show fewer grown-ups here, but the children are the same as in the earlier book, and a scene showing two figures blowing chocolate milk out of their noses essentially recycles a visual joke from the previous outing. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

The message is worthy, but this phoned-in follow-up doesn’t add anything significant. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-43490-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless.

THE WORLD NEEDS MORE PURPLE PEOPLE

A monohued tally of positive character traits.

Purple is a “magic color,” affirm the authors (both actors, though Hart’s name recognition is nowhere near the level of Bell’s), and “purple people” are the sort who ask questions, laugh wholeheartedly, work hard, freely voice feelings and opinions, help those who might “lose” their own voices in the face of unkindness, and, in sum, can “JUST BE (the real) YOU.” Unlike the obsessive protagonist of Victoria Kann’s Pinkalicious franchise, being a purple person has “nothing to do with what you look like”—a point that Wiseman underscores with scenes of exuberantly posed cartoon figures (including versions of the authors) in casual North American attire but sporting a wide range of ages, skin hues, and body types. A crowded playground at the close (no social distancing here) displays all this wholesome behavior in action. Plenty of purple highlights, plus a plethora of broad smiles and wide-open mouths, crank up the visual energy—and if the earnest overall tone doesn’t snag the attention of young audiences, a grossly literal view of the young narrator and a grandparent “snot-out-our-nose laughing” should do the trick. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10.4-by-20.6-inch double-page spreads viewed at 22.2% of actual size.)

The buoyant uplift seems a bit pre-packaged but spot-on nonetheless. (Picture book. 6-8)

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-12196-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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