An inclusive, be-yourself party—with cupcakes—can’t help but succeed.


Will Octicorn’s party be a success?

Octicorn loves pool parties and is planning one, but the horned cephalopod worries no one will show. Octicorn invites Unicorn, who says, “If there are rainbows to fly over. I’m in.” Octicorn is happy Unicorn will attend. Turtle says he will come if no one talks—he’s shy. Seahorse will come only if Unicorn is not invited. Snail will attend only if there is break dancing. Lion wants to eat the other guests, but Octicorn doesn’t think that’s a good idea. Woodchuck, of course, will come if there is wood to chuck. Octicorn is happy so many creatures will be there…until the hapless host realizes that many of the guests’ stipulations are mutually exclusive; there’s no way to satisfy them all. So Octicorn decides to have “a do what you want, be who you are, no matter what anyone else thinks, party instead.” And a good time is clearly being had by all—except Lion, who cannot attend but is given a cupcake to eat outside. Creators Diller and Lowe go beyond the one-joke core of Octi’s introduction in Hello, My Name Is Octicorn (2016) to present a tale of social awkwardness with dryly deadpan humor that the painfully shy, in particular, will identify with. Mulholland’s childlike scribbly doodle art replicates the look of the first book (done by Lowe with Binny Talib), and with its occasional splashes of color, it fits the tale and reinforces the tone.

An inclusive, be-yourself party—with cupcakes—can’t help but succeed. (Picture book. 3-9)

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-238794-3

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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A wandering effort, happy but pointless.


From the Dragons Love Tacos series

The perfect book for kids who love dragons and mild tacos.

Rubin’s story starts with an incantatory edge: “Hey, kid! Did you know that dragons love tacos? They love beef tacos and chicken tacos. They love really big gigantic tacos and tiny little baby tacos as well.” The playing field is set: dragons, tacos. As a pairing, they are fairly silly, and when the kicker comes in—that dragons hate spicy salsa, which ignites their inner fireworks—the silliness is sillier still. Second nature, after all, is for dragons to blow flames out their noses. So when the kid throws a taco party for the dragons, it seems a weak device that the clearly labeled “totally mild” salsa comes with spicy jalapenos in the fine print, prompting the dragons to burn down the house, resulting in a barn-raising at which more tacos are served. Harmless, but if there is a parable hidden in the dragon-taco tale, it is hidden in the unlit deep, and as a measure of lunacy, bridled or unbridled, it doesn’t make the leap into the outer reaches of imagination. Salmieri’s artwork is fitting, with a crabbed, ethereal line work reminiscent of Peter Sís, but the story does not offer it enough range.

A wandering effort, happy but pointless. (Picture book. 3-5)

Pub Date: June 14, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8037-3680-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted...


Reinvention is the name of the game for two blobs of clay.

A blue-eyed gray blob and a brown-eyed brown blob sit side by side, unsure as to what’s going to happen next. The gray anticipates an adventure, while the brown appears apprehensive. A pair of hands descends, and soon, amid a flurry of squishing and prodding and poking and sculpting, a handsome gray wolf and a stately brown owl emerge. The hands disappear, leaving the friends to their own devices. The owl is pleased, but the wolf convinces it that the best is yet to come. An ear pulled here and an extra eye placed there, and before you can shake a carving stick, a spurt of frenetic self-exploration—expressed as a tangled black scribble—reveals a succession of smug hybrid beasts. After all, the opportunity to become a “pig-e-phant” doesn’t come around every day. But the sound of approaching footsteps panics the pair of Picassos. How are they going to “fix [them]selves” on time? Soon a hippopotamus and peacock are staring bug-eyed at a returning pair of astonished hands. The creative naiveté of the “clay mates” is perfectly captured by Petty’s feisty, spot-on dialogue: “This was your idea…and it was a BAD one.” Eldridge’s endearing sculpted images are photographed against the stark white background of an artist’s work table to great effect.

The dynamic interaction between the characters invites readers to take risks, push boundaries, and have a little unscripted fun of their own . (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 20, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-30311-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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