A well-crafted revision sure to spark discussion.


A feminist spin on a biblical event.

The story of Queen Vashti and King Ahasuerus, like most Jewish tales, has many interpretations. In this buoyant, rhyming take, Queen Vashti “played gin rummy all night long / and sang her favorite silly song. / And all Queen Vashti’s friends were there, / in comfy pants and braided hair.” The women are enjoying their relaxation time, but the king, whose “party had stretched on for days,” decides that “Queen Vashti must at once come down, / in her finest dress and royal crown.” A battle of the wills commences, as Vashti refuses to give up the comfort of her red-and-orange patterned pants, and the king (unnamed in the book) insists that she perform for him. Finally the king declares, “Have you forgotten who I am? / Your choice is simple: / dance…or SCRAM!” Vashti and her ladies-in-waiting take the scram option and leave to “conquer the world in their comfy pants!” The colorful cartoon illustrations are expressive, with a lot of background diversity—Vashti herself has brown skin, and one of her friends is in an ancient wheeled chair. Many readers, whether familiar or unfamiliar with the Purim story this is spun from, may enjoy the lighthearted girl power; others who know its origins may bristle at the irreverence displayed toward what is often considered a tale of sexual violence and dire consequences.

A well-crafted revision sure to spark discussion. (author's note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68115-563-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Apples & Honey Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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A touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area.


A pair of cardinals is separated and then reunited when their tree home is moved to New York City to serve as the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

The male cardinal, Red, and his female partner, Lulu, enjoy their home in a huge evergreen tree located in the front yard of a small house in a pleasant neighborhood. When the tree is cut down and hauled away on a truck, Lulu is still inside the tree. Red follows the truck into the city but loses sight of it and gets lost. The birds are reunited when Red finds the tree transformed with colored lights and serving as the Christmas tree in a complex of city buildings. When the tree is removed after Christmas, the birds find a new home in a nearby park. Each following Christmas, the pair visit the new tree erected in the same location. Attractive illustrations effectively handle some difficult challenges of dimension and perspective and create a glowing, magical atmosphere for the snowy Christmas trees. The original owners of the tree are a multiracial family with two children; the father is African-American and the mother is white. The family is in the background in the early pages, reappearing again skating on the rink at Rockefeller Center with their tree in the background.

A touching, beautifully illustrated story of greatest interest to those in the New York City area. (author’s note) (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7636-7733-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Kid-friendly dark humor.


The chicken crosses the road…and arrives on the other side as a ghost.

The action kicks off before the title page when the chicken crossing the road winds up a splatter of feathers against the grille of a tractor trailer. When its ghost rises from the squished remains, it meets a host of other animal ghosts that encourage the new poultrygeist to start getting scary. They probably didn’t realize, however, that they’d be the ones to be frightened. Geron’s text is full of punny lines like “It’s time to get foul, fowl!” and “Ghosts of a feather haunt together!” Midway through, the poultrygeist turns to readers to make sure they’re not too scared. This is a nice touch, maintaining engagement while also giving more timid readers time to take a beat. Oswald’s illustrations display masterful use of color, with bright, ghostly animals against a dark, often all-black background, the dialogue shown in colors that correspond to the speakers. These ghosts do become scary but not enough to completely terrorize readers. Oswald’s skill is seen in full effect, as readers witness only the animal ghosts’ reactions to the poultrygeist’s scariest face, building suspense for the full reveal. This book is just right for kids easing into the slightly scary and macabre but who still want a safe and fun read.

Kid-friendly dark humor. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5362-1050-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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