Despite the touch-and-go artwork, the book can offer copious comfort to children with the suggestion that their closest...

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BLANKET & BEAR, A REMARKABLE PAIR

Where do old toys and blankets go? Their own private island, it seems.

In gentle, rhyming verse, a blanket and a bear are presented to a baby boy who takes to them instantly. When the previously inseparable threesome are separated during an ocean voyage, the boy is bereft. Meanwhile, the blanket and bear set off to find their owner, discovering instead a land where lost objects like them enjoy the island life. In a twist some won’t see coming, the blanket and bear initially reject the lost-toy paradise, only to return to it when it is clear that their human really has outgrown them. It ends, “Now think for a minute / of the toys you once knew. / Are they now on that island, / telling stories of you?” Evidently meaning to soothe fretful children who’ve been separated from their best beloved objects, Kelly’s text, his debut, is quite effective. Tanaka’s artistic style, on the other hand, only really takes off when blanket and bear are on their own, and the humans, painted with heavy-lidded doe eyes, are little more than a distant memory. Only then do the soft acrylics soar, as capable in their depictions of sun-drenched landscapes as they are in those of the threadbare, split seams of a much-loved toy’s backside.

Despite the touch-and-go artwork, the book can offer copious comfort to children with the suggestion that their closest childhood friends have found second lives elsewhere. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Aug. 29, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-399-25681-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 29, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2013

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Only for dedicated fans of the series.

HOW TO CATCH A MONSTER

From the How to Catch… series

When a kid gets the part of the ninja master in the school play, it finally seems to be the right time to tackle the closet monster.

“I spot my monster right away. / He’s practicing his ROAR. / He almost scares me half to death, / but I won’t be scared anymore!” The monster is a large, fluffy poison-green beast with blue hands and feet and face and a fluffy blue-and-green–striped tail. The kid employs a “bag of tricks” to try to catch the monster: in it are a giant wind-up shark, two cans of silly string, and an elaborate cage-and-robot trap. This last works, but with an unexpected result: the monster looks sad. Turns out he was only scaring the boy to wake him up so they could be friends. The monster greets the boy in the usual monster way: he “rips a massive FART!!” that smells like strawberries and lime, and then they go to the monster’s house to meet his parents and play. The final two spreads show the duo getting ready for bed, which is a rather anticlimactic end to what has otherwise been a rambunctious tale. Elkerton’s bright illustrations have a TV-cartoon aesthetic, and his playful beast is never scary. The narrator is depicted with black eyes and hair and pale skin. Wallace’s limping verses are uninspired at best, and the scansion and meter are frequently off.

Only for dedicated fans of the series. (Picture book. 5-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4926-4894-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2017

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Action, clever humor, delightful illustrations and expectation-defying secret identities—when does the next one come out?

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THE PRINCESS IN BLACK

From the Princess in Black series , Vol. 1

Perfect Princess Magnolia has a secret—her alter ego is the Princess in Black, a superhero figure who protects the kingdom!

When nosy Duchess Wigtower unexpectedly drops by Princess Magnolia’s castle, Magnolia must protect her secret identity from the duchess’s prying. But then Magnolia’s monster alarm, a glitter-stone ring, goes off. She must save the day, leaving the duchess unattended in her castle. After a costume change, the Princess in Black joins her steed, Blacky (public identity: Frimplepants the unicorn), to protect Duff the goat boy and his goats from a shaggy, blue, goat-eating monster. When the monster refuses to see reason, Magnolia fights him, using special moves like the “Sparkle Slam” and the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Smash.” The rounded, cartoony illustrations featuring chubby characters keep the fight sequence soft and comical. Watching the fight, Duff notices suspicious similarities between the Princess in Black and Magnolia—quickly dismissed as “a silly idea”—much like the duchess’s dismissal of some discovered black stockings as being simply dirty, as “princesses don’t wear black.” The gently ironic text will amuse readers (including adults reading the book aloud). The large print and illustrations expand the book to a longish-yet-manageable length, giving newly independent readers a sense of accomplishment. The ending hints at another hero, the Goat Avenger.

Action, clever humor, delightful illustrations and expectation-defying secret identities—when does the next one come out? (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6510-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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