This will be a read-aloud favorite for little supersleuths, particularly those with junior agents on the way.

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JUNIPER KAI

SUPER SPY

Code-breaking manuals? Check. Disguises? Check. Spy cameras? Check!

Harriet the Spy would approve of this sharp-eyed investigator. This young, mixed-race heroine has all the tools of the spy trade at her disposal. And while she prefers to work alone, her mom and dad have always filled in as assets. But recently, something has changed. When she observes her parents making clandestine plans and writing in code, Juniper springs into action. What are her parents up to? With her dogged curiosity and creative problem-solving, Juniper covers a lot of ground, all while clad in her rose-colored shorts and mint-green socks. During a surveillance run, she detects her Asian-presenting dad building something that looks like a jail, while her dark-haired, brown-skinned, pleasantly plump mother whispers secrets on the phone. Juniper is given plenty of alone-time to plan, collect, and analyze all the intelligence. The animation-inflected illustrations cover every angle of the house, with tension building in the cover of darkness. Within the text, the complex, spy-related words are printed in colored, boldface type for dramatic emphasis. With skillful pacing, the storyline ramps up as the clues are collected. Will Juniper complete her mission? Or is this just the beginning of “the most important mission of [her] life”?

This will be a read-aloud favorite for little supersleuths, particularly those with junior agents on the way. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4332-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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Sincere and wholehearted.

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I PROMISE

The NBA star offers a poem that encourages curiosity, integrity, compassion, courage, and self-forgiveness.

James makes his debut as a children’s author with a motivational poem touting life habits that children should strive for. In the first-person narration, he provides young readers with foundational self-esteem encouragement layered within basketball descriptions: “I promise to run full court and show up each time / to get right back up and let my magic shine.” While the verse is nothing particularly artful, it is heartfelt, and in her illustrations, Mata offers attention-grabbing illustrations of a diverse and enthusiastic group of children. Scenes vary, including classrooms hung with student artwork, an asphalt playground where kids jump double Dutch, and a gym populated with pint-sized basketball players, all clearly part of one bustling neighborhood. Her artistry brings black and brown joy to the forefront of each page. These children evince equal joy in learning and in play. One particularly touching double-page spread depicts two vignettes of a pair of black children, possibly siblings; in one, they cuddle comfortably together, and in the other, the older gives the younger a playful noogie. Adults will appreciate the closing checklist of promises, which emphasize active engagement with school. A closing note very generally introduces principles that underlie the Lebron James Family Foundation’s I Promise School (in Akron, Ohio). (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at 15% of actual size.)

Sincere and wholehearted. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-297106-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles.

THE DINKY DONKEY

Even more alliterative hanky-panky from the creators of The Wonky Donkey (2010).

Operating on the principle (valid, here) that anything worth doing is worth overdoing, Smith and Cowley give their wildly popular Wonky Donkey a daughter—who, being “cute and small,” was a “dinky donkey”; having “beautiful long eyelashes” she was in consequence a “blinky dinky donkey”; and so on…and on…and on until the cumulative chorus sails past silly and ludicrous to irresistibly hysterical: “She was a stinky funky plinky-plonky winky-tinky,” etc. The repeating “Hee Haw!” chorus hardly suggests what any audience’s escalating response will be. In the illustrations the daughter sports her parent’s big, shiny eyes and winsome grin while posing in a multicolored mohawk next to a rustic boombox (“She was a punky blinky”), painting her hooves pink, crossing her rear legs to signal a need to pee (“winky-tinky inky-pinky”), demonstrating her smelliness with the help of a histrionic hummingbird, and finally cozying up to her proud, evidently single parent (there’s no sign of another) for a closing cuddle.

Should be packaged with an oxygen supply, as it will incontestably elicit uncontrollable gales of giggles. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-60083-4

Page Count: 24

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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