Competent illustrations, muddied storyline.

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THE SKETCHBOOK

A little girl who loves to draw is shy about showing her pictures to anyone.

Young Lily is “afraid of what others might think of her drawings, so she [keeps] her pictures hidden in her sketchbook.” While author/illustrator Seal’s illustrations are varied in their presentation—double-page spreads are interspersed with spot illustrations, vignettes, and full-page bleeds—the overall presentation doesn’t sparkle as a book about art should. The characters’ expressions are uniformly pleasant, and the illustrations mostly mirror the text. A few notable illustrations reach beyond, however, as when Lily’s imagination is visually underscored by her drawing of a rainy day and a poignant moment when she draws herself in a group of children. The storyline inevitably engineers that Lily’s drawings are accidently seen by the townspeople—a gust of wind scatters them—and Lily is mortified until she realizes that people are praising them. Strangely, here the storyline moves from confidence in drawing to confidence in telling stories as, “for the first time in Lily’s life, words came spilling out of her.” The final illustration and its accompanying text add to this perplexity by showing Lily surrounded by new friends admiring her pictures, with the words: “And now she’d found a voice, and friends to share them with.” This conflation of storylines, strange grammar aside, is just plain confusing. Lily presents white while other residents of her picturesque town are somewhat diverse.

Competent illustrations, muddied storyline. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4413-2937-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Peter Pauper Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2019

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Fun, fun, fun all through the town! (Picture book. 4-6)

THE HIPS ON THE DRAG QUEEN GO SWISH, SWISH, SWISH

This book’s gonna werk, werk, werk all through Pride Month and beyond.

Drag persona Lil Miss Hot Mess rewrites “The Wheels on the Bus” to create a fun, movement-filled, family-friendly celebration of drag. The text opens with the titular verse to establish the familiar song’s formulaic pattern: “The hips on the drag queen go SWISH, SWISH, SWISH… / ALL THROUGH THE TOWN!” Along the way, more and more drag queens join in the celebration. The unnamed queens proudly display a range of skin tones, sizes, and body modifications to create a diverse cast of realistic characters that could easily be spotted at a Pride event or on RuPaul’s Drag Race. The palette of both costumes and backgrounds is appropriately psychedelic, and there are plenty of jewels going “BLING, BLING, BLING.” Don’t tell the queens, but the flow is the book’s real star, because it encourages natural kinetic participation that will have groups of young readers giggling and miming along with the story. Libraries and bookshops hosting drag-queen storytimes will find this a popular choice, and those celebrating LGBTQ heritage will also find this a useful book for the pre-K crowd. Curious children unfamiliar with a drag queen may require a brief explanation, but the spectacle stands up just fine on its own platforms.

Fun, fun, fun all through the town! (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7624-6765-5

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Running Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A lightweight fear-dispeller, without the gun violence that now makes Mercer Mayer’s There’s a Nightmare in My Closet (1968)...

MONSTERS AREN'T REAL

Beaten down by a ubiquitous chorus of denials (see title), a monster suffers an existential crisis.

Surrounded by emphatic claims that it doesn’t even exist, a monster sets out not only to prove the contrary, but to establish its scariness credentials too. Alas, neither blasting the world with graffiti and printed fliers nor rearing up menacingly over a baby in a carriage, children at the barre in a ballet class and other supposedly susceptible victims elicits any response. Juggling some cows attracts attention but not the terrified kind. But the monster’s final despairing surrender—“That’s it! It’s over! I give up! ... /  Monsters aren’t real (sniff)”—triggers an indignant denial of a different sort from a second, smaller but wilder-looking, creature. It takes the first in hand and leads it off, declaring “We’re two big, strong, scary monsters, and we’ll prove it.” In truth, it won’t escape even very young readers that neither is particularly scary-looking. Indeed, the protagonist-monster is depicted in the sparsely detailed cartoon illustrations as a furry, almost cuddly, bearlike hulk with light-blue spots, antlers and comically googly eyes, certain to provoke more giggles than screams.

A lightweight fear-dispeller, without the gun violence that now makes Mercer Mayer’s There’s a Nightmare in My Closet (1968) so discomfiting. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: June 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61067-073-9

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Kane Miller

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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