While it’s not a profound look at mixed-race identity, it is a playful one, and readers will enjoy the cultural examination...

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GONDRA'S TREASURE

East meets West and they have a baby dragon in this fantasy from Newbery Medalist Park.

With a father from the “East” and a mother from the “West,” young dragon Gondra deftly narrates she was born “somewhere in the middle.” Portrayed with zany proportions, including bulging eyes encircled with purple eyelids and red tendrils sprouting from her ears, nose, chin, and tail, Gondra carries her stuffed cow in tow as she quizzes her parents on the range of abilities between them. “Both of my parents can fly. Mom has wings. Dad uses magic.” Bantering back and forth, each parent describes the differences of their traits. Dad has an elongated wingless body in line with Asian dragons, while Mom follows the European style with wings and a shorter body. Gondra is then left to examine her own characteristics, wondering exactly where she stands in the family and how that differs from history. When she asks about dragon treasure, both parents lovingly remind her of her own intrinsic value. Park lightly touches on themes of interracial families, with the dragon folklore occupying the foreground. Reinhardt is bold in her choices of watercolors, pairing them with busy textures to bring a quirky flair to the tale and including humorous details to complement the narration.

While it’s not a profound look at mixed-race identity, it is a playful one, and readers will enjoy the cultural examination of dragons. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-544-54669-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Clarion

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text.

BO'S MAGICAL NEW FRIEND

From the Unicorn Diaries series , Vol. 1

A unicorn learns a friendship lesson in this chapter-book series opener.

Unicorn Bo has friends but longs for a “bestie.” Luckily, a new unicorn pops into existence (literally: Unicorns appear on especially starry nights) and joins Bo at the Sparklegrove School for Unicorns, where they study things like unicorn magic. Each unicorn has a special power; Bo’s is granting wishes. Not knowing what his own might be distresses new unicorn Sunny. When the week’s assignment is to earn a patch by using their unicorn powers to help someone, Bo hopes Sunny will wish to know Bo's power (enabling both unicorns to complete the task, and besides, Bo enjoys Sunny’s company and wants to help him). But when the words come out wrong, Sunny thinks Bo was feigning friendship to get to grant a wish and earn a patch, setting up a fairly sophisticated conflict. Bo makes things up to Sunny, and then—with the unicorns friends again and no longer trying to force their powers—arising circumstances enable them to earn their patches. The cheerful illustrations feature a sherbet palette, using patterns for texture; on busy pages with background colors similar to the characters’ color schemes, this combines with the absence of outlines to make discerning some individual characters a challenge. The format, familiar to readers of Elliott’s Owl Diaries series, uses large print and speech bubbles to keep pages to a manageable amount of text.

A surprisingly nuanced lesson set in confidence-building, easy-to-decode text. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Dec. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-32332-0

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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A gentle adventure that sets the stage for future quests.

THE LOST STONE

From the The Kingdom of Wrenly series , Vol. 1

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. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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