Disappointing and preachy, with illustrations that leave little to readers’ imaginations.

THE UNICORN CAME TO DINNER

Mythical beast versus pragmatic parents—with somewhat expected results.

A unicorn has arrived for dinner, having apparently eaten Mom and Dad’s daughter, Elizabeth (not for the first time). Rude, ungainly, and temperamental, the unicorn tracks prints around the house and exhibits appalling table manners. Dad and Mom, initially irritated, eventually tame this wild beast and even tuck it into bed with a teddy bear. Parents may smile in recognition at the rather obvious ending of this preachy tale. Kids might recognize themselves in this enormous creature that can’t control its temper and feels generally misunderstood; however, the final metamorphosis has little explanation or catalyst, and the story’s perspective seems very parent-oriented. There’s no explanation why the unicorn is so upset; rather, the parents must figure out how to handle this situation as calmly and positively as possible. That seems unhelpful for both children and caregivers who need emotional guidance. Cornwall’s illustrations, done in muted earth tones save for the pink unicorn, do nothing to enliven the flat story, a stark contrast to the vibrancy and emotional range evident in her debut, Jabari Jumps (2017). Furthermore, she uses paper-bag skin tones for this family of color, even giving Mom nearly the same skin tone as that of the woodwork.

Disappointing and preachy, with illustrations that leave little to readers’ imaginations. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-31040-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A shining affirmation of Chinese American identity.

I AM GOLDEN

An immigrant couple’s empowering love letter to their child.

Baby Mei rests in her parents’ embrace, flanked by Chinese architecture on one side and the New York skyline on the other. She will be a bridge across the “oceans and worlds and cultures” that separate her parents from their homeland, China. Mei—a Chinese word which means beautiful—shares a name with her family’s new home: Měi Guó (America). Her parents acknowledge the hypocrisy of xenophobia: “It’s a strange world we live in—people will call you different with one breath and then say that we all look the same with the next angry breath.” Mei will have the responsibility of being “teacher and translator” to her parents. They might not be able to completely shield her from racism, othering, and the pressures of assimilation, but they can reassure and empower her—and they do. Mei and young readers are encouraged to rely on the “golden flame” of strength, power, and hope they carry within them. The second-person narration adds intimacy to the lyrical text. Diao’s lovely digital artwork works in tandem with Chen’s rich textual imagery to celebrate Chinese culture, family history, and language. The illustrations incorporate touchstones of Chinese mythology and art—a majestic dragon, a phoenix, and lotus flowers—as well as family photographs. One double-page spread depicts a lineup of notable Chinese Americans. In the backmatter, Chen and Diao relay their own family stories of immigration. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

A shining affirmation of Chinese American identity. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-84205-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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Uncomplicated and worthwhile for any age.

THE THANKFUL BOOK

Parr focuses his simplistic childlike art and declarative sentences on gratitude for the pleasures and wonders of a child’s everyday life.

Using images of both kids and animals, each colorful scene in bold primary colors declaims a reason to be thankful. “I am thankful for my hair because it makes me unique” shows a yellow-faced child with a wild purple coiffure, indicating self-esteem. An elephant with large pink ears happily exclaims, “I am thankful for my ears because they let me hear words like ‘I love you.’ ” Humor is interjected with, “I am thankful for underwear because I like to wear it on my head.” (Parents will hope that it is clean, but potty-humor–loving children probably won’t care.) Children are encouraged to be thankful for feet, music, school, vacations and the library, “because it is filled with endless adventures,” among other things. The book’s cheery, upbeat message is clearly meant to inspire optimistic gratitude; Parr exhorts children to “remember some [things to be thankful for] every day.”

Uncomplicated and worthwhile for any age. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-18101-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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