This is a spell that is swell.



Ta-da! The great magician Aziz performs his magic tricks by turning one object into another, just by changing one letter.

The crowd is impressed when “dish” becomes “fish.” “Rose” becomes “hose,” and “wire” turns into “fire.” However, his assistant is left to deal with the fallout from the tricks, capably plopping the fish into a bowl of water and uncoiling the hose to put out the fire. But when Aziz turns her “wig” into a “pig,” Zaza glares and her nose flares: “Shazam!” Turnabout is fair play as she turns his “hat” into a “bat,” initiating a game of one-upmanship, much to the delight of the audience. Events turn scary when Zaza turns “beans” into threatening “bears.” Aziz pulls out a “card,” Zaza turns it into a “cord,” and together the pair ties up the bears and takes a bow that is a wow. The comic exaggeration of the wordplay is embellished with Paschkis’ quick, sketch-artist style of loose, flourishing lines and breezy free-hand whimsy, akin to Marjorie Priceman’s artwork in Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd Moss (1995). Brown-skinned, mustachioed Aziz in his top hat and pink-skinned, pear-shaped Zaza are humorous caricatures. Zaza never regains her hair, unflappably and ferociously engaging in combat. Kids can’t help but find this quite funny, and the possibilities for extension at home or in the classroom are both plentiful and obvious.

This is a spell that is swell. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: April 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4814-2210-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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Give this to the sparkle- and cupcake-obsessed child in your life


Fabled equines party and play in a bright confection of a picture book.

“Hooray! Hooray! It’s Unicorn Day!” In galloping rhyming text that mostly scans, a community of chipper, bright-eyed unicorns obeys the three rules of Unicorn Day: “Show off your horn,” “Fluff up that hair,” and “Have fun, fun, fun!” They dance, frolic with butterflies, and of course eat cupcakes. But then they discover an interloper: A dun-colored quadruped, with a horn suspiciously attached with string, is outed as a horse. He mopes off, but the unicorns come running after—“they don’t want to lose a friend!”—and his horn is tied back on. With tension limited to a page turn, this very minor climax is resolved immediately. Then it’s back to the fun, as lots of other creatures (human children, a rainbow octopus, a Yeti, and more) join the unicorn parade with their own tied-on horns. Is this an allegory about straight people at pride parades? An argument that appropriation is OK sometimes? Should one read meaning into the identity of the only brown “unicorn”? Or is it just a zany, philosophy-free, sugar-fueled opposite-of-a-bedtime story? Regardless of subtext, conscious or otherwise, kiddie readers hungry for fluff will be drawn to the bright, energetic illustrations as to cotton candy.

Give this to the sparkle- and cupcake-obsessed child in your life . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: June 4, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6722-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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Breaking the bounds of a traditional picture book, Iris’ creative growth elevates us all.


Bridging the gap between picture book and graphic novel, this charmer catapults a simple storyline of sibling jealousy into outer space.

Iris, the older of two small children, always has the job of pushing the button on the elevator. “Up or down, our floor or the lobby, I always get to push the button.” One day, her toddler sibling reaches out and pushes the button before she can. Their parents’ joy over the smaller child’s new trick is pure betrayal to Iris. The baby has stolen her job, just like her stuffed tiger. Lê and Santat, creators of Asian/Pacific Award–winner Drawn Together (2018), have produced another inspired storyline fueled by emotions that come alive with magnetic illustrations. Dark frames around each scene keep the focus on Iris, a black-haired girl with expressive eyes that pierce through her messy bangs. (The whole family has black hair and pale skin.) Styled like a graphic novel’s, the illustrations focus on Iris’ feelings as she imagines a new elevator button, one that she can control, with the magical ability to transport her to other worlds. Frustration, invention, escape, wonder—all move across the pages with immediacy. Like Sendak’s Max, Iris uses anger to lift her away from the real world into jungles and outer space. And she returns to her room changed.

Breaking the bounds of a traditional picture book, Iris’ creative growth elevates us all. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-03692-4

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion/LBYR

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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