This funny, spirited exploration of superhero culture sans violence and with an added dose of familial love is a powerful...


When there are no radioactive spiders around to gift you with super skills, curl up with the Superhero Instruction Manual to learn what it takes to realize your inner superhero.

Told in a combination of comic-book frames, traditional picture-book spreads, and text boxes that contain directives from the titular manual, the book introduces readers to a young, white boy deeply absorbed in a “complete, unabridged” instruction manual that guarantees it can turn anyone super in “seven easy steps.” In the background, a friendly dog and an intrigued-yet-suspicious sister follow him throughout his journey to superherodom in hilarious counterpoint. The instructions lead to miniadventures, such as the search for a supersecret hideout that shows him approaching the occupied doghouse and being banished from the predictable behind-the-couch sanctum before fetching up in the remodeled treehouse (complete with “No Sisters” sign). The tale turns as the sister takes to the role of hero with more ease than her discombobulated brother, who feels far from super after a world-saving–cum–world-ending high-speed chase through the park in pursuit of his villainous sidekick pet dog. She helps readers realize that heroics are not always about superpowers but the true human power of “always [being] there when it counts.”

This funny, spirited exploration of superhero culture sans violence and with an added dose of familial love is a powerful addition to any bookshelf. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 17, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-385-75534-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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A sweet, if oft-told, story.


A plush toy rabbit bonds with a boy and watches him grow into adulthood.

The boy receives the blue bunny for his birthday and immediately becomes attached to it. Unbeknownst to him, the ungendered bunny is sentient; it engages in dialogue with fellow toys, giving readers insight into its thoughts. The bunny's goal is to have grand adventures when the boy grows up and no longer needs its company. The boy spends many years playing imaginatively with the bunny, holding it close during both joyous and sorrowful times and taking it along on family trips. As a young man, he marries, starts a family, and hands over the beloved toy to his toddler-aged child in a crib. The bunny's epiphany—that he does not need to wait for great adventures since all his dreams have already come true in the boy's company—is explicitly stated in the lengthy text, which is in many ways similar to The Velveteen Rabbit (1922). The illustrations, which look hand-painted but were digitally created, are moderately sentimental with an impressionistic dreaminess (one illustration even includes a bunny-shaped cloud in the sky) and a warm glow throughout. The depiction of a teenage male openly displaying his emotions—hugging his beloved childhood toy for example—is refreshing. All human characters present as White expect for one of the boy’s friends who is Black.

A sweet, if oft-told, story. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-72825-448-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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