A charming, challenging, imaginative alphabet book; will induce giggles.


A girl chases a stray pet through an animal parade in this zany collection of alphabet animals and their owners.

When brown-haired Zoe notices a sign for the pet parade, she asks her grandfather if she can get a pet. After assuring her grandfather she’s ready for the responsibility of being a pet owner, she heads to the parade. There, they see a wacky assortment of town residents and some very strange pets, one for each letter of the alphabet. But when a “critter that strayed, / out of the crowd into the parade,” starts causing a ruckus, Zoe zooms after it on her bicycle, chasing it through the alphabet until she finally rescues it and knows exactly which pet she wants for herself. Unlike alphabet books geared toward the youngest readers, this collection of alphabetical creatures and characters features fun and challenging vocabulary words (intercepted, orneriest, oscillated) to go with sometimes lesser-known animals (ibex, quoll). Savvy readers will notice that each character’s surname is the opposite of their description, giving the Santa Fe–esque Topsy-Turvy Town a unique cast (“Barbara Boring, the most interesting person you’ve ever met, brought her bats”). Engel’s exquisite illustrations offer a bright display of color and activity. The town’s quirky residents range in age, ethnicity, skin tone, and ability—two characters use wheelchairs—as well as described personality. Endnotes offer discussion questions, including about the wisdom of keeping exotic pets.

A charming, challenging, imaginative alphabet book; will induce giggles.

Pub Date: July 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-58041-127-1

Page Count: 36

Publisher: ASHA Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way.

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From the Pigeon series

All the typical worries and excuses kids have about school are filtered through Willems’ hysterical, bus-loving Pigeon.

Told mostly in speech balloons, the bird’s monologue will have kids (and their caregivers) in stitches at Pigeon’s excuses. From already knowing everything (except whatever question readers choose to provide in response to “Go ahead—ask me a question. / Any question!”) to fearing learning too much (“My head might pop off”), Pigeon’s imagination has run wild. Readers familiar with Pigeon will recognize the muted, matte backgrounds that show off the bird’s shenanigans so well. As in previous outings, Willems varies the size of the pigeon on the page to help communicate emotion, the bird teeny small on the double-page spread that illustrates the confession that “I’m… / scared.” And Pigeon’s eight-box rant about all the perils of school (“The unknown stresses me out, dude”) is marvelously followed by the realization (complete with lightbulb thought bubble) that school is the place for students to practice, with experts, all those skills they don’t yet have. But it is the ending that is so Willems, so Pigeon, and so perfect. Pigeon’s last question is “Well, HOW am I supposed to get there, anyway!?!” Readers will readily guess both the answer and Pigeon’s reaction.

Yes, the Pigeon has to go to school, and so do readers, and this book will surely ease the way. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-368-04645-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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A wandering effort, happy but pointless.


From the Dragons Love Tacos series

The perfect book for kids who love dragons and mild tacos.

Rubin’s story starts with an incantatory edge: “Hey, kid! Did you know that dragons love tacos? They love beef tacos and chicken tacos. They love really big gigantic tacos and tiny little baby tacos as well.” The playing field is set: dragons, tacos. As a pairing, they are fairly silly, and when the kicker comes in—that dragons hate spicy salsa, which ignites their inner fireworks—the silliness is sillier still. Second nature, after all, is for dragons to blow flames out their noses. So when the kid throws a taco party for the dragons, it seems a weak device that the clearly labeled “totally mild” salsa comes with spicy jalapenos in the fine print, prompting the dragons to burn down the house, resulting in a barn-raising at which more tacos are served. Harmless, but if there is a parable hidden in the dragon-taco tale, it is hidden in the unlit deep, and as a measure of lunacy, bridled or unbridled, it doesn’t make the leap into the outer reaches of imagination. Salmieri’s artwork is fitting, with a crabbed, ethereal line work reminiscent of Peter Sís, but the story does not offer it enough range.

A wandering effort, happy but pointless. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3680-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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