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THE MEANEST OF MEANIES

A BOOK ABOUT LOVE

If “being mean…means… // I LOVE YOU!!!” then this kid sure must love her mother. Wouldn’t lots of moms prefer a hug?

A monster enumerates all the ways her mother is mean.

While this blue-skinned child is completely serious in her criticisms of her green-skinned mother, hopefully readers will see similarities to their own moms: Mom wakes the narrator with tickles and coffee breath, waves goodbye at school dropoff, bribes her for conversation, and makes her read books at bedtime (four, not the desired 82). Weirdly, a school-picture-day thread is dropped abruptly in favor of a spelling bee (where Mom cheers). The creators of the podcast #IMOMSOHARD may have their tongues firmly in cheeks, but their child protagonist comes off as an entitled monster. Some adults may find the situations familiar, but few will want this parent-child duo as role models: The child is sassy (“Look, lady, my hands are all busy!”), and the mom is sometimes a doormat (making three breakfasts). Some of the rhymes are rough, and the meter sometimes stumbles. Briggs’ digital illustrations play up the humor in the text while smoothing the rougher edges a bit with a monster cast. Few characters have lifelike skin tones, and all have features that set them apart—varying numbers of appendages or eyes; horns, spines. The girl and her mother share blue hair, horns, and spotted skin; each has two legs and eyes, and the girl has two arms to her mother’s four. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

If “being mean…means… // I LOVE YOU!!!” then this kid sure must love her mother. Wouldn’t lots of moms prefer a hug? (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-304055-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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PETE THE CAT'S 12 GROOVY DAYS OF CHRISTMAS

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among

Pete, the cat who couldn’t care less, celebrates Christmas with his inimitable lassitude.

If it weren’t part of the title and repeated on every other page, readers unfamiliar with Pete’s shtick might have a hard time arriving at “groovy” to describe his Christmas celebration, as the expressionless cat displays not a hint of groove in Dean’s now-trademark illustrations. Nor does Pete have a great sense of scansion: “On the first day of Christmas, / Pete gave to me… / A road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” The cat is shown at the wheel of a yellow microbus strung with garland and lights and with a star-topped tree tied to its roof. On the second day of Christmas Pete gives “me” (here depicted as a gray squirrel who gets on the bus) “2 fuzzy gloves, and a road trip to the sea. / GROOVY!” On the third day, he gives “me” (now a white cat who joins Pete and the squirrel) “3 yummy cupcakes,” etc. The “me” mentioned in the lyrics changes from day to day and gift to gift, with “4 far-out surfboards” (a frog), “5 onion rings” (crocodile), and “6 skateboards rolling” (a yellow bird that shares its skateboards with the white cat, the squirrel, the frog, and the crocodile while Pete drives on). Gifts and animals pile on until the microbus finally arrives at the seaside and readers are told yet again that it’s all “GROOVY!”

Pete’s fans might find it groovy; anyone else has plenty of other “12 Days of Christmas” variants to choose among . (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267527-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2018

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THERE'S A ROCK CONCERT IN MY BEDROOM

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

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