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

SUPERHERO INSTRUCTION MANUAL

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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KNIGHT OWL

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 touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area.

RED AND LULU

A pair of cardinals is separated and then reunited when their tree home is moved to New York City to serve as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

The male cardinal, Red, and his female partner, Lulu, enjoy their home in a huge evergreen tree located in the front yard of a small house in a pleasant neighborhood. When the tree is cut down and hauled away on a truck, Lulu is still inside the tree. Red follows the truck into the city but loses sight of it and gets lost. The birds are reunited when Red finds the tree transformed with colored lights and serving as the Christmas tree in a complex of city buildings. When the tree is removed after Christmas, the birds find a new home in a nearby park. Each following Christmas, the pair visit the new tree erected in the same location. Attractive illustrations effectively handle some difficult challenges of dimension and perspective and create a glowing, magical atmosphere for the snowy Christmas trees. The original owners of the tree are a multiracial family with two children; the father is African-American and the mother is white. The family is in the background in the early pages, reappearing again skating on the rink at Rockefeller Center with their tree in the background.

A touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7733-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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