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Read for the overall aesthetic and for the text’s gentle humor.

A girl named Willow learns from a friend “inside [her] head” how to unlock her imagination when rereading a book.

Advice opposite the title page is an immediate hint about the approaching dreamlike quality of the text and the illustrations: “Read slowly, then… / Close your eyes / See the images / Savor the wor(l)d / Imagine the future / Feel the colors / Hear the sounds / Smell the paper / Touch the story / Enjoy.” The title page features the same gnomish, whiskered old man who, on the cover, gazes up at a girl on a carousel horse. As the page turns, readers learn that he is Tally, a gruff voice inside Willow’s head, advising her to end boredom by reading. When Willow protest that she’s read all of her books, Tally advises her to look for the “book inside the book.” There is a design flaw here: The stack of sentences in quotation marks does not clarify who is speaking, which may tie readers in knots. Under Tally’s tutelage, Willow embarks on a fantastical journey, flying above and into storybook scenes. The fantasy elements of the artwork are stunningly beautiful and subtly evocative of different centuries of Western artwork and literature. Unfortunately, inconsistent depiction of Willow’s apparent age is distracting.

Read for the overall aesthetic and for the text’s gentle humor. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-988-8240-80-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: minedition

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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Warm but underdone.

In this picture book from actor Gyllenhaal and his partner, Caruso, a child and his uncle bond on a fantastic journey.

Leo, an avid dancer, is dismayed when Uncle Mo visits—he’s in town for a “rubber band convention.” Illustrations show both with wavy brown hair and light tan skin. Not only does Leo think his uncle is rather dull, he’s also leery of Uncle Mo’s many rules. A rather abrupt narrative shift occurs when the pair inexplicably drive into another dimension. Here they encounter Great-Aunt Gloria (who is very tall and presents Black) and Uncle Munkle Carbunkle (who is very short and light-skinned), who guide them through the Secret Society of Aunts & Uncles. Unimpressed with Uncle Mo, Great-Aunt Gloria says he must take a quiz on “Auntieology and Uncleology.” After several wrong answers, Uncle Mo has a final chance at redemption: He must state his nephew’s favorite activity. When Leo springs into action to dance for his clueless uncle, a mishap leaves him mortified and un-bespectacled. Enter Uncle Mo to save the day by using a rubber band to secure Leo’s glasses. While Santat’s energetic illustrations do much to clarify the narrative, they can’t fully make up for the disjointed storytelling—it’s never clear why the two have entered this dimension or why Leo is suddenly so eager to help Uncle Mo. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Warm but underdone. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2023

ISBN: 9781250776990

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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A delicious triumph over fear of night creatures.

Pippa conquers a fear of the creatures that emerge from her storybooks at night.

Pippa’s “wonderfully wild imagination” can sometimes run “a little TOO wild.” During the day, she wears her “armor” and is a force to be reckoned with. But in bed at night, Pippa worries about “villains and monsters and beasts.” Sharp-toothed and -taloned shadows, dragons, and pirates emerge from her storybooks like genies from a bottle, just to scare her. Pippa flees to her parents’ room only to be brought back time and again. Finally, Pippa decides that she “needs a plan” to “get rid of them once and for all.” She decides to slip a written invitation into every book, and that night, they all come out. She tries subduing them with a lasso, an eye patch, and a sombrero, but she is defeated. Next, she tries “sashes and sequins and bows,” throwing the fashion pieces on the monsters, who…“begin to pose and primp and preen.” After that success, their fashion show becomes a nightly ritual. Clever Pippa’s transformation from scared victim of her own imagination to leader of the monster pack feels fairly sudden, but it’s satisfying nonetheless. The cartoony illustrations effectively use dynamic strokes, shadow, and light to capture action on the page and the feeling of Pippa's fears taking over her real space. Pippa and her parents are brown-skinned with curls of various textures.

A delicious triumph over fear of night creatures. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-9300-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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