A “talon-ted” tightrope walk between character education and entertaining whimsy.

BEING FRIENDS WITH DRAGONS

There are many reasons to be friends with dragons, yet they, just like humans, can make mistakes.

While dragons’ fire-breathing abilities mean their friends will always have perfectly toasted marshmallows, flames unintentionally come out of their mouths when they get mad, which can be dangerous indeed. Dragons can help you reach items on the highest shelves…alas, they are not always the best at sharing what they find up there. Fortunately, although dragons can sometimes “forget to be good friends,” they do know how to apologize and “clean up any mess they have made.” These are just some of the many attributes that Locke weighs in this thinly veiled attempt to teach young children good behavior, such as sharing and taking turns, and positive values, such as patience and compromise. A casually diverse cast of children (including a boy using a wheelchair) and endearing, facially expressive, multicolored dragons make this engaging book worthy of readers’ time. The bright, colorful cartoony illustrations are rambunctiously fun and include witty subtleties, though some details get swallowed by the gutter. The text is at once lighthearted and instructive as a reminder of qualities that are important to find in both ourselves and our loved ones.

A “talon-ted” tightrope walk between character education and entertaining whimsy. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-7624-7324-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Running Press Kids

Review Posted Online: Dec. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

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Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking.

I'M NOT SCARED, YOU'RE SCARED

Unlikely friends Bear and Rabbit face fears together.

The anthropomorphic creatures set out on an adventure. Graphic-based illustrations give the book a Pixar movie feel, with a variety of page layouts that keep the story moving. Large blocks of black text are heavy on dialogue patterns as timid Bear and bold Rabbit encounter obstacles. Bear fears every one of them, from the stream to the mountain. He’ll do anything to avoid the objects of terror: taking a bus, a train, and even a helicopter. As Rabbit asks Bear if he’s frightened, Bear repeatedly responds, “I’m not scared, you’re scared!” and children will delight in the call-and-response opportunities. Adults may tire of the refrain, but attempts to keep everyone entertained are evident in asides about Bear's inability to brush food from his teeth (he’s too afraid to look at himself in the mirror) and Rabbit's superstrong ears (which do come in handy later). When Rabbit finds herself in danger after Bear defects on the adventure, Bear retraces the trip. Along the way, he notes that the stream wasn't as deep, nor the mountain as high, as he thought when he was scared. While picture-book shelves may not be screaming for another comedically sweet bear story, especially one that treads such familiar territory, many readers will appreciate this tale of overcoming fears. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Energetic and earnest but not groundbreaking. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-35237-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Flamingo Books

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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An interesting premise but the execution is underwhelming.

STELLA KEEPS THE SUN UP

Stella hates going to bed, so she and her best buddy attempt to prevent the sun from setting.

Imaginative Stella, a young Black girl with Afro puffs, misses her friend Kamrynn, a light-skinned, straight-haired girl who has moved to “the other side of the world.” Luckily, Stella still has her best pal Roger, a blue hippo stuffie. Neither Stella nor Roger like sleeping: “Why do we have to miss all the fun and go to bed just because it gets dark?” Deciding that “if it never gets dark, then we can stay awake forever,” the duo work tirelessly to “keep the sun awake.” They play loud music, shine flashlights at the sun, and even make various attempts to launch a cup of coffee up to the celestial orb in hopes that caffeine will keep it alert. Eventually, the pair quit when they realize that if the sun never sets for them, morning can never come for Kamrynn, who wakes up when they go to bed. Despite the book’s sweet touches, the narrative is weakened by some meandering irrelevancies that make the plot feel disconnected. Also, at the beginning of the story, Stella seems enamored of the moon—she wishes she could jump high enough to kiss it—yet she and Roger spend the bulk of the book trying to prevent nightfall; this discrepancy may give some readers pause. The digital, cartoonlike illustrations are bright, colorful, and cheerful but don’t make up for the shaky plotting.

An interesting premise but the execution is underwhelming. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: March 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-8785-7

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Denene Millner Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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