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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A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends

WAITING IS NOT EASY!

From the Elephant & Piggie series

Gerald the elephant learns a truth familiar to every preschooler—heck, every human: “Waiting is not easy!”

When Piggie cartwheels up to Gerald announcing that she has a surprise for him, Gerald is less than pleased to learn that the “surprise is a surprise.” Gerald pumps Piggie for information (it’s big, it’s pretty, and they can share it), but Piggie holds fast on this basic principle: Gerald will have to wait. Gerald lets out an almighty “GROAN!” Variations on this basic exchange occur throughout the day; Gerald pleads, Piggie insists they must wait; Gerald groans. As the day turns to twilight (signaled by the backgrounds that darken from mauve to gray to charcoal), Gerald gets grumpy. “WE HAVE WASTED THE WHOLE DAY!…And for WHAT!?” Piggie then gestures up to the Milky Way, which an awed Gerald acknowledges “was worth the wait.” Willems relies even more than usual on the slightest of changes in posture, layout and typography, as two waiting figures can’t help but be pretty static. At one point, Piggie assumes the lotus position, infuriating Gerald. Most amusingly, Gerald’s elephantine groans assume weighty physicality in spread-filling speech bubbles that knock Piggie to the ground. And the spectacular, photo-collaged images of the Milky Way that dwarf the two friends makes it clear that it was indeed worth the wait.

A lesson that never grows old, enacted with verve by two favorite friends . (Early reader. 6-8)

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4231-9957-1

Page Count: 64

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

SNOW PLACE LIKE HOME

From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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