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


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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Weathers heavy themes with breezy sensitivity…and unicorns!


From the Not Quite Narwhal and Friends series

Emotional storm clouds come between two unicorn friends.

Harking back to Not Quite Narwhal (2017) in both cast and tone, Sima offers a friendship tale in which Kelp’s close and aptly named pal Nimbus acquires a dark little cloud that rains when she feels down. The more she tries to ignore it or bottle it up, the bigger it gets…until it finally breaks out in a storm that sends her fleeing all company to huddle alone in a gloomy forest. There, she discovers that recognizing and getting to know the cloud actually makes it shrink—and just as she’s feeling a bit better, Kelp gallops into view, which sets the stage for a joyful reunion depicted in the sweet, softly hued illustrations with an exuberant rainbow swirl. Kelp, who turns out to be “a very good listener,” acknowledges the cloud matter-of-factly, and Nimbus comes to understand that though she may have up days and down days to come, weathering the latter with an accepting friend will make them easier. If some young readers subject to or familiar with similar storms (or a bit foggy on what a metaphor is) need explanation or discussion about depression to clear the air, the comforting message nonetheless shines brightly. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Weathers heavy themes with breezy sensitivity…and unicorns! (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: May 2, 2023

ISBN: 9781665916981

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

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Accessible, reassuring and hopeful.


This endearing picture book about a timid boy who longs to belong has an agenda but delivers its message with great sensitivity.

Brian wants to join in but is overlooked, even ostracized, by his classmates. Readers first see him alone on the front endpapers, drawing in chalk on the ground. The school scenarios are uncomfortably familiar: High-maintenance children get the teacher’s attention; team captains choose kickball players by popularity and athletic ability; chatter about birthday parties indicates they are not inclusive events. Tender illustrations rendered in glowing hues capture Brian’s isolation deftly; compared to the others and his surroundings, he appears in black and white. What saves Brian is his creativity. As he draws, Brian imagines amazing stories, including a poignant one about a superhero with the power to make friends. When a new boy takes some ribbing, it is Brian who leaves an illustrated note to make him feel better. The boy does not forget this gesture. It only takes one person noticing Brian for the others to see his talents have value; that he has something to contribute. Brian’s colors pop. In the closing endpapers, Brian’s classmates are spread around him on the ground, “wearing” his chalk-drawn wings and capes. Use this to start a discussion: The author includes suggested questions and recommended reading lists for adults and children.

Accessible, reassuring and hopeful. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-582-46450-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2013

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