A winner for families that enjoy a heavy dose of gross-out humor.

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Poop jokes abound in this picture book about a future comedian and his friends.

Justin may get in trouble for his uncouth habits, but as long as he can make his friends laugh, he doesn’t care. When their amusement at his antics seems to wane, he needs a new plan: “ ‘Why are they not laughing more?’ Justin grumbled with regret. / ‘I’ll have to take it up a notch and be my most disgusting yet!’ ” But when he eats out of the garbage bin, the joke’s on him; his stomach can’t handle the grossness, and he has an explosive bathroom episode that leaves his friends concerned instead of entertained. Everything changes when he realizes healthy veggies “made him fart” and that he can do prat falls just as easily if he’s clean as when he’s filthy. Frank captures the sheer delight that some early independent readers find in grossness; fun, unfamiliar words like “pongy burps” are clear from context but may stretch young readers’ vocabulary. Add some light nudity (butt jokes in both the text and illustrations) and this is sure to be a book that may turn off many adults, but some youngsters will certainly enjoy it. Vamos’ Disney-like, full-color cartoon illustrations perfectly capture Justin’s attitude and the over-the-top humor.

A winner for families that enjoy a heavy dose of gross-out humor.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2022

ISBN: 9781922890818

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023


Nice enough but not worth repeat reads.

Emma deals with jitters before playing the guitar in the school talent show.

Pop musician Kevin Jonas and his wife, Danielle, put performance at the center of their picture-book debut. When Emma is intimidated by her very talented friends, the encouragement of her younger sister, Bella, and the support of her family help her to shine her own light. The story is straightforward and the moral familiar: Draw strength from your family and within to overcome your fears. Employing the performance-anxiety trope that’s been written many times over, the book plods along predictably—there’s nothing really new or surprising here. Dawson’s full-color digital illustrations center a White-presenting family along with Emma’s three friends of color: Jamila has tanned skin and wears a hijab; Wendy has dark brown skin and Afro puffs; and Luis has medium brown skin. Emma’s expressive eyes and face are the real draw of the artwork—from worry to embarrassment to joy, it’s clear what she’s feeling. A standout double-page spread depicts Emma’s talent show performance, with a rainbow swirl of music erupting from an amp and Emma rocking a glam outfit and electric guitar. Overall, the book reads pretty plainly, buoyed largely by the artwork. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Nice enough but not worth repeat reads. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35207-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Razorbill/Penguin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 8, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022


Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Bewitched by the rhythms of jazz all around her in Depression-era Kansas City, little Melba Doretta Liston longs to make music in this fictional account of a little-known jazz great.

Picking up the trombone at 7, the little girl teaches herself to play with the support of her Grandpa John and Momma Lucille, performing on the radio at 8 and touring as a pro at just 17. Both text and illustrations make it clear that it’s not all easy for Melba; “The Best Service for WHITES ONLY” reads a sign in a hotel window as the narrative describes a bigotry-plagued tour in the South with Billie Holiday. But joy carries the day, and the story ends on a high note, with Melba “dazzling audiences and making headlines” around the world. Russell-Brown’s debut text has an innate musicality, mixing judicious use of onomatopoeia with often sonorous prose. Morrison’s sinuous, exaggerated lines are the perfect match for Melba’s story; she puts her entire body into her playing, the exaggerated arch of her back and thrust of her shoulders mirroring the curves of her instrument. In one thrilling spread, the evening gown–clad instrumentalist stands over the male musicians, her slide crossing the gutter while the back bow disappears off the page to the left. An impressive discography complements a two-page afterword and a thorough bibliography.

Readers will agree that “Melba Doretta Liston was something special.” (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-60060-898-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Lee & Low Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2014

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