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

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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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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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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