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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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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A full-hearted valentine.

THIS IS A SCHOOL

A soaring panegyric to elementary school as a communal place to learn and grow.

“This is a kid,” Schu begins. “This is a kid in a class. This is a class in a hall….” If that class—possibly second graders, though they could be a year to either side of that—numbers only about a dozen in Jamison’s bright paintings, it makes up for that in diversity, with shiny faces of variously brown or olive complexion well outnumbering paler ones; one child using a wheelchair; and at least two who appear to be Asian. (The adult staff is likewise racially diverse.) The children are individualized in the art, but the author’s narrative is addressed more to an older set of readers as it runs almost entirely to collective nouns and abstract concepts: “We share. We help. / This is a community, growing.” Younger audiences will zero in on the pictures, which depict easily recognizable scenes of both individual and collective learning and play, with adults and classmates always on hand to help out or join in. Signs of conflict are unrealistically absent, but an occasional downcast look does add a bit of nuance to the general air of eager positivity on display. A sad face at an apartment window with a comment that “[s]ometimes something happens, and we can’t all be together” can be interpreted as an oblique reference to pandemic closings, but the central message here is that school is a physical space, not a virtual one, where learning and community happen. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A full-hearted valentine. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: March 29, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5362-0458-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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