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LIZA JANE & THE DRAGON

Those seeking feminist-tinged picture books should look elsewhere

A young girl thinks that a dragon will be a better caregiver than her mom and dad.

Liza Jane’s parents tell her that she’s very lucky. She has all the trappings of a happy-enough childhood: a canopy bed, a goldfish, and pizza on Fridays. “Yet: people didn’t listen to her. People interrupted her. People didn’t care about her feelings. And by ‘people’—we mean her parents.” The mixed-race child decides to fire her parental unit, and after putting up signs around the neighborhood (“Wanted: A MOM + A DAD”), she hires a dragon who claims “I can do both jobs.” But the dragon can’t cook, can’t brush Liza Jane’s hair, and “if anything made Liza Jane mad or frustrated, the dragon set it on fire.” The illustrations are subdued watercolors; Liza Jane and the dragon are always rendered in bold colors, set against a retro sepia backdrop, with other splashes of color indicating the focal point of each spread. The text is awkward and clunky, using an overwhelmingly didactic tone for a story lacking any clear or compelling takeaways. “After two weeks, or maybe it was six months, or maybe it was four years,” Liza Jane sends the dragon away and rehires her parents. “She tells them every day how lucky they are.”

Those seeking feminist-tinged picture books should look elsewhere . (Picture book. 5-9)

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61775-661-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Black Sheep/Akashic

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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LITTLE DAYMOND LEARNS TO EARN

It’s hard to argue with success, but guides that actually do the math will be more useful to budding capitalists.

How to raise money for a coveted poster: put your friends to work!

John, founder of the FUBU fashion line and a Shark Tank venture capitalist, offers a self-referential blueprint for financial success. Having only half of the $10 he needs for a Minka J poster, Daymond forks over $1 to buy a plain T-shirt, paints a picture of the pop star on it, sells it for $5, and uses all of his cash to buy nine more shirts. Then he recruits three friends to decorate them with his design and help sell them for an unspecified amount (from a conveniently free and empty street-fair booth) until they’re gone. The enterprising entrepreneur reimburses himself for the shirts and splits the remaining proceeds, which leaves him with enough for that poster as well as a “brand-new business book,” while his friends express other fiscal strategies: saving their share, spending it all on new art supplies, or donating part and buying a (math) book with the rest. (In a closing summation, the author also suggests investing in stocks, bonds, or cryptocurrency.) Though Miles cranks up the visual energy in her sparsely detailed illustrations by incorporating bright colors and lots of greenbacks, the actual advice feels a bit vague. Daymond is Black; most of the cast are people of color. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

It’s hard to argue with success, but guides that actually do the math will be more useful to budding capitalists. (Picture book. 7-9)

Pub Date: March 21, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-593-56727-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2023

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WILLOW THE WHITE HOUSE CAT

Kids will enjoy the opportunity to “mews” on the doings of a presidential pet.

First Lady Biden and Capucilli, author of the Biscuit series, explain how Willow the cat came to reside at the White House.

Willow lives contentedly in a barn. One day, she’s curious when cars approach and people gather to hear a blond woman speak. Willow draws closer, then is delighted as the woman lifts her up and hugs her. That evening, light-skinned Farmer Rick tells Willow she made “quite an impression”: The visitor has invited Willow to live with her. A car arrives to drive Willow away to the White House, her new home in Washington, D.C. There, she’s welcomed by the first lady—the same woman who tenderly held her at the farm. Willow meets the president and explores her new home, filled with elegantly furnished rooms, grand staircases, and historic portraits. Plus, there’s a toy-filled basket! Best of all, there are wonderful people who work in and visit this beautiful house who show Willow kindness and affection. Willow’s favorite resting spot is at the president’s side in the Oval Office, though she also enjoys watching the first lady read to children on the lawn. Animal lovers will especially appreciate this sweet, cat’s-eye view of the White House, which helps humanize the first family by depicting them as ordinary feline fanciers. The loose ink, acrylic, and paint illustrations are cheerful and cozy. Background characters are racially diverse.

Kids will enjoy the opportunity to “mews” on the doings of a presidential pet. (author’s note from Biden, photos) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 4, 2024

ISBN: 9781665952057

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Paula Wiseman/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 20, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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