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Interesting subject, but the story is less than satisfying.

Ava is finally allowed to open Aunt Jo’s mysterious trunk, and what’s inside is more magical than anything Ava could’ve imagined.

Ava, a young Black girl, likens her Aunt Jo’s house to a “fancy museum with curiosities, oddities, and doodads in every corner.” So when Aunt Jo finally gives Ava the key to the trunk she’s been eager to explore, she rushes to unlock it. Inside she finds what she thinks is an old blanket—more like a patchwork quilt. Ava learns that the blanket is made of fabric from gowns created by African American dressmaker and fashion designer Elizabeth Keckley. She and Aunt Jo are magically transported to the past, where they observe Keckley’s work and see the people she made dresses for, like first lady Mary Todd Lincoln. Together, they learn about two other African American modistes of a bygone era: fashion designer Ann Cole Lowe and milliner Mildred Blount. The bold, colorful illustrations are eye-catching and a highlight of the book. The information about the historical figures is presented in a way that feels disconnected from the rest of the story. The narrator’s identity is ambiguous, which is also confusing; the illustrations suggest that Aunt Jo is the narrator, yet the text lacks quotation marks. The book manages to provide interesting facts, but the absence of bibliographic references and backmatter is disappointing.

Interesting subject, but the story is less than satisfying. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5037-5928-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sunbird Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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From the The Kingdom of Wrenly series , Vol. 1

A gentle adventure that sets the stage for future quests.

A lonely prince gains a friend for a quest to find a missing jewel.

Prince Lucas of Wrenly has everything a boy could possibly want—except a friend. His father has forbidden him to play with the village children for reasons of propriety. Adventure-seeking Lucas acquires peasant clothes to masquerade as a commoner and make friends, but he is caught out. His mother, the queen, persuades the king to allow him one friend: Clara, the daughter of her personal dressmaker. When the queen’s prized emerald pendant goes missing, Lucas and Clara set off to find it. They follow the jewel as it changes hands, interviewing each temporary owner. Their adventure cleverly introduces the series’ world and peoples, taking the children to the fairy island of Primlox, the trolls’ home of Burth, the wizard island of Hobsgrove and finally Mermaid’s Cove. By befriending the mermaids, Lucas and Clara finally recover the jewel. In thanks, the king gives Clara a horse of her own so that she may ride with Lucas on their future adventures. The third-person narration is generally unobtrusive, allowing the characters to take center stage. The charming, medieval-flavored illustrations set the fairy-tale scene and take up enough page space that new and reluctant readers won’t be overwhelmed by text.

 A gentle adventure that sets the stage for future quests. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4424-9691-0

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Little Simon/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 11, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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