An entertaining and reassuring story, but it puts problem-solving entirely on kids’ shoulders.

ELLA MCBELLA IN THE DARK

A girl uses her imagination to handle nighttime fears in this debut picture book.

With her orange hair, freckles, and round blue eyes, Ella McBella is a cheerful-looking White girl, and she’s got plenty of energy for riding her bike and playing outdoors. She also loves just lying on the grass and gazing at clouds. As the day ends, Ella’s jubilation begins to wane, though she does enjoy her dinner and, later, a bedtime story and cuddles. When the lights are out, Ella’s worries begin. She hears sinister noises in the wind, and the shadows in her room turn into scary monster shapes. But Ella takes action to feel better, gathering her teddy bears, reading favorite books by flashlight, and watching the antics of animals outside. Soon, she’s peacefully asleep. In her engaging story, Pells writes rhyming couplets that have a nicely regular meter and vivid word choices: “The shapes change and morph from tree branches to blobs, / growing pointy, long horns and moving in mobs.” She promotes resilience, a laudable goal, but experts point out that frightened kids do need help from adults first—something the tale doesn’t model. Trimarco, an experienced illustrator, contributes playful colored-pencil drawings with cute, Sesame Street–style monsters.

An entertaining and reassuring story, but it puts problem-solving entirely on kids’ shoulders.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73335-481-3

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Notable Kids Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 11, 2021

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PUG BLASTS OFF

From the Diary of a Pug series , Vol. 1

A cuddly, squishy pug’s puggy-wuggy diary.

Equipped with both #pugunicorn and #pughotdog outfits, pug Baron von Bubbles (aka Bub) is the kind of dog that always dresses to impress. Bub also makes lots of memorable faces, such as the “Hey, you’re not the boss of me!” expression aimed at Duchess, the snooty pink house cat. Some of Bub’s favorite things include skateboarding, a favorite teddy, and eating peanut butter. Bub also loves Bella, who adopted Bub from a fair—it was “love at first sniff.” Together, Bub and Bella do a lot of arts and crafts. Their latest project: entering Bella’s school’s inventor challenge by making a super-duper awesome rocket. But, when the pesky neighborhood squirrel, Nutz, makes off with Bub’s bear, Bub accidentally ruins their project. How will they win the contest? More importantly, how will Bella ever forgive him? May’s cutesy, full-color cartoon art sets the tone for this pug-tastic romp for the new-to–chapter-books crowd. Emojilike faces accentuate Bub’s already expressive character design. Bub’s infectious first-person narration pushes the silly factor off the charts. In addition to creating the look and feel of a diary, the lined paper helps readers follow the eight-chapter story. Most pages have fewer than five sentences, often broken into smaller sections. Additional text appears in color-coded speech bubbles. Bella presents white.

Totes adorbs. (Fiction. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-53003-2

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A strong, accessible diary story for readers seeking an adorable animal tale.

PUG'S SNOW DAY

From the Diary of a Pug series , Vol. 2

Bub the anxious pug tackles snow days and new neighbors in his second outing.

Bub, acclaimed by some as “the cutest pug on the planet,” at first shares the enthusiasm owner Bella expresses about snow days even though he doesn’t know what they are. Then Duchess the cat (mildly antagonistic, in typical feline fashion) rains on Bub’s parade by pointing out that snow is water—and Bub’s no fan of rain or baths. After a comedic and disastrous first attempt, Bub learns how to properly dress for snow and enjoy it. The outdoor fun’s cut short by mysterious noises coming from the new neighbor, which frighten Bella into thinking there’s a monster. Bub puts on a Sherlock Holmes get-up to investigate but becomes afraid himself of the new neighbor’s large dog. Finally, Bella meets Jack, who’s been working on a tree fort, and his dog, Luna, who is enthusiastically friendly. The story ends on a positive note, as they all happily work together on the fort. The full-color cartoon illustrations, especially of Bub, are adorably expressive and certain to please the age group. The generous font and format—short, diary-entry paragraphs and speech-bubble conversations—create a quick pace. Bub’s stylized emoji bubbles return and are most hilarious when used to express his nervous flatulence. Bella and Jack both present white.

A strong, accessible diary story for readers seeking an adorable animal tale. (Fantasy. 5-7)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-53006-3

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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