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


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

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2020

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A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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Though books on childhood anxiety are numerous, it is worth making space on the shelf for this one.


Brock may be dressed like a superhero, but he sure doesn’t feel like one, as social anxieties threaten to rain on his fun    .

Juan’s superhero-themed birthday party is about to start, but Brock is feeling trepidatious about attending without his brother as his trusty sidekick. His costume does not fit quite right, and he is already running late, and soon Brock is “way past worried.” When he arrives at the party he takes some deep breaths but is still afraid to jump in and so hides behind a tree. Hiding in the same tree is the similarly nervous Nelly, who’s new to the neighborhood. Through the simple act of sharing their anxieties, the children find themselves ready to face their fears. This true-to-life depiction of social anxiety is simply but effectively rendered. While both Nelly and Brock try taking deep breathes to calm their anxieties without success, it is the act of sharing their worries in a safe space with someone who understands that ultimately brings relief. With similar themes, Brock’s tale would make a lovely companion for Tom Percival’s Ruby Finds a Worry (2019) on social-emotional–development bookshelves. Brock is depicted with black hair and tan skin, Nelly presents White, and peers at the party appear fairly diverse.

Though books on childhood anxiety are numerous, it is worth making space on the shelf for this one. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8075-8686-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Whitman

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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