A lighthearted picture book for readers hungry for wordplay and lunch.

The opposite of a picky eater, this little boy can’t decide what food-related costume to make for the school play.

Ms. Mellon’s elementary class excitedly cuts, glues, and paints costumes of their favorite foods for the end-of-school Foodstravaganza. Only Frankie can’t decide. He loves all the foods and advocates, unsuccessfully, for combination dishes such as, “nachos with spring rolls and marzipan on top.” But finally Frankie’s job as the costume manager inspires the perfect costume. With a little bit of everything, Frankie steps onstage for the grand finale as Leftovers! Written in the third person with a heavy reliance on dialogue, the story unfolds at a steady pace. Friendly illustrations, created with painterly strokes of thick gouache with linework in ink, augmented by some colored pencil, depict round-faced, rosy-cheeked children with a variety of hair and skin colors; Frankie himself has brown skin and hair while Ms. Mellon presents white. Food is at the center of this plot-driven picture book. The food costumes are especially clever and cover a broad range of cuisines, from sushi to tortellini, steamed dumplings to flan. Importantly, kids are not matched to foods by ethnicity. Food wordplay accompanies each performance, from the “EGGcellent” breakfast dance to the desserts doing the “MACARON-a.” Although a few puns fail to land (“It’s the FALAFEL of the Opera!”), most are delightful.

A lighthearted picture book for readers hungry for wordplay and lunch. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-6431-1

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Tundra Books

Review Posted Online: June 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019


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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