Lovely—but it requires patience, just like its protagonist



Grandmother Thorn has spent years perfecting her beloved garden, but a new plant, a gift from a friend, threatens its harmony.

Grandmother Thorn lives alone in Shizuka Village, apparently in Japan. Every day she meticulously cares for her garden and its pebbled paths, shunning visitors and shooing birds away from her trees. Neighbors fear her, but she always shows kindness to her old friend, Ojiisan, despite the fact that his crooked foot disrupts her precious paths. When a merchant brings an unusual type of berry to market, Ojiisan pays the merchant to take some to Grandmother Thorn. The merchant unwisely picks one perfect flower. Enraged, Grandmother Thorn chases him away and he drops the berries—one of which soon sprouts into a renegade plant. Her intense anger at this makes her so sick she must stay at the home of her niece until the following spring. When Ojiisan goes to walk her home, he gives her a box of berries. They are delicious—the fruit of the persistent weed. Grandmother Thorn understands that she has finally found something as stubborn as herself. Although Howes’ protagonist learns a good lesson, she is not particularly likable to that point, and the stern faces of Hahn’s characters could be disconcerting to the book’s young audience. Her pattern-filled, hand-collage illustrations incorporate fabric, wood, and paint, their thick outlines and stable compositions imparting a sense of peace to Grandmother Thorn’s garden.

Lovely—but it requires patience, just like its protagonist . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9913866-9-7

Page Count: 44

Publisher: Ripple Grove

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2017

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Earnest and silly by turns, it doesn’t quite capture the attention or the imagination, although surely its heart is in the...


Rhymed couplets convey the story of a girl who likes to build things but is shy about it. Neither the poetry nor Rosie’s projects always work well.

Rosie picks up trash and oddments where she finds them, stashing them in her attic room to work on at night. Once, she made a hat for her favorite zookeeper uncle to keep pythons away, and he laughed so hard that she never made anything publicly again. But when her great-great-aunt Rose comes to visit and reminds Rosie of her own past building airplanes, she expresses her regret that she still has not had the chance to fly. Great-great-aunt Rose is visibly modeled on Rosie the Riveter, the iconic, red-bandanna–wearing poster woman from World War II. Rosie decides to build a flying machine and does so (it’s a heli-o-cheese-copter), but it fails. She’s just about to swear off making stuff forever when Aunt Rose congratulates her on her failure; now she can go on to try again. Rosie wears her hair swooped over one eye (just like great-great-aunt Rose), and other figures have exaggerated hairdos, tiny feet and elongated or greatly rounded bodies. The detritus of Rosie’s collections is fascinating, from broken dolls and stuffed animals to nails, tools, pencils, old lamps and possibly an erector set. And cheddar-cheese spray.

Earnest and silly by turns, it doesn’t quite capture the attention or the imagination, although surely its heart is in the right place. (historical note) (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4197-0845-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Abrams

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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Amusing and nicely on-brand.


From the Princess in Black series , Vol. 6

Princess Magnolia’s attempt at a monster-free science fair goes as well as can be expected in the sixth book of the Princess in Black series.

With the Goat Avenger on monster watch, Princess Magnolia heads to the Interkingdom Science Fair. While initially excited about her project—a poster showing “how seeds grow into plants”—and seeing her fellow princess friends, Magnolia’s soon intimidated by how ambitious and fancy the other royals’ projects are. Why, Tommy Wigtower even has a talking volcano—when his baking-soda–and-vinegar volcano didn’t erupt properly, he added monster hair. The resulting goo monster wreaks havoc on the fair, leading to appearances by the Princess in Black and the Princess in Blankets to battle the beast. Evicted from the volcano, the monster tries to find a new home, prompting Princess Honeysuckle, Princess Orchid, and Princess Snapdragon (all sans aliases and costumes) to help deliver the monster to the monster hole for a new home. While it’s great to see the heroics from princesses in full regalia, the final page hints that they’ll soon join in the alter-ego fun. Perhaps the best gem is when the science-fair winner is announced and the graceful losers offer genuine congratulations while resolving to try harder next year. Aside from white Magnolia, the cast is multicultural and multiracial.

Amusing and nicely on-brand. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7636-8827-1

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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