Rip-roaring verse but painfully simplistic messaging.

THE SMEDS AND THE SMOOS

Two youngsters from mutually hostile groups connect.

This tale of prejudiced extraterrestrials jumps immediately into rollicking verse. “By a loobular lake on a far-off planet / There lived a young Smed, / and her name was Janet. / Not far away, on a humplety hill, / There lived a young Smoo / by the name of Bill.” The patter and nonsense words (wurpular, trockle) invoke Dr. Seuss. Smeds and Smoos alike have antennae and tubular noses, but Smeds, red, have webbed feet they wear bare while Smoos, blue, sport elflike boots. The illustrations’ eye-catching colors are intensely saturated throughout, sometimes jarringly so. Despite parallel contemptuous commands to “Never, never play with” the other group, Janet and Bill secretly bond and grow up to marry. “Janet and Bill stole out that night / While their families slept / and the squoon shone bright. / They clambered into the Smeds’ red rocket. / (Grandfather Sned had forgotten to lock it.) / Bill pressed the button, and Janet steered… // …When their families woke, they had both disappeared!” A multiplanet search leads to reconciliation and integration. This unsubtle metaphor for fixing racism and xenophobia ignores real-world power imbalances: The Smeds and Smoos may distrust one another, but they share equal status. Moreover, the notion that interracial couples and mixed-race offspring—a purple Smed/Smoo baby—are a solution for racism is false and places an unfair burden on mixed-race readers.

Rip-roaring verse but painfully simplistic messaging. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-66976-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Slight and contrived.

LITTLE TACO TRUCK

A little orange food truck parks in the same place every day, bringing tacos to hungry construction workers—till one morning, a falafel truck takes his spot.

Miss Falafel then brings by more of her friends, crowding out the taco truck. Little Taco Truck whines and cries, but after four days of being shut out by the bigger trucks, he finally takes the initiative. He spends the night in his former parking space, defending his territory when the other trucks arrive. The rest immediately apologize, and after some creative maneuvering, everyone fits—even the newly arrived noodle truck. Valentine’s naïve call for cooperation glosses over the very real problem of urban gentrification represented by the flood of bigger and better-equipped trucks taking over the neighborhood. When the taco truck is the only game in town, the food line consists of hard-hatted construction workers. Then, as falafel, arepa, gelato, hot dog, and gumbo trucks set up shop, professionals and hipsters start showing up. (All the customers are depicted as animals.) The author also inadvertently equates tacos with a lack of sophistication. “ ‘Hola, Miss Fal…Fal…’ Little Taco Truck tried to sound out the words on the side of the other truck.” Sadly, the truck sells Americanized crisp-shelled tacos. Even the glossary ignores the culinary versatility and cultural authenticity of the soft taco with this oversimplified and inaccurate definition: “A crispy Mexican corn pancake folded or rolled around a filling of meat, beans, and cheese.”

Slight and contrived. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5247-6585-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

LOVE MONSTER

Monster lives in Cutesville, where he feels his googly eyes make him unlovable, especially compared to all the “cute, fluffy” kittens, puppies and bunnies. He goes off to find someone who will appreciate him just the way he is…with funny and heartwarming results.

A red, scraggly, pointy-eared, arm-dragging monster with a pronounced underbite clutches his monster doll to one side of his chest, exposing a purplish blue heart on the other. His oversized eyes express his loneliness. Bright could not have created a more sympathetic and adorable character. But she further impresses with the telling of this poor chap’s journey. Since Monster is not the “moping-around sort,” he strikes out on his own to find someone who will love him. “He look[s] high” from on top of a hill, and “he look[s] low” at the bottom of the same hill. The page turn reveals a rolling (and labeled) tumbleweed on a flat stretch. Here “he look[s] middle-ish.” Careful pacing combines with dramatic design and the deadpan text to make this sad search a very funny one. When it gets dark and scary, he decides to head back home. A bus’s headlights shine on his bent figure. All seems hopeless—until the next page surprises, with a smiling, orange monster with long eyelashes and a pink heart on her chest depicted at the wheel. And “in the blink of a googly eye / everything change[s].”

This seemingly simple tale packs a satisfying emotional punch. Scarily good! (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 31, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-374-34646-1

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2013

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