An earnest tale about the power of story.


During a time of oppressive fear, a librarian comforts her community.

The book’s first spread shows a child celebrating a birthday with loved ones in an apartment in upper panels on verso; in the lower panels and across the gutter readers see the celebration ending in destruction when soldiers bomb the library across the street. The people now live in fear where “crumbling buildings…look like ghosts,” tanks roll by, soldiers stomp, food and water are rationed, and everything—from the streets to townspeople’s moods—seems “frozen” and grim. But sitting on a bench in the apartment square and reading aloud is the intrepid town librarian, the illustrations depicting her words literally flowing through the town. Though the adults fear the soldiers’ responses (“Foolish woman,” Papa mutters), the children gradually step forth to listen, because the librarian helps them remember “what life was like before.” A closing note about the “senseless violence of war” states that this tale was inspired by the cellist who serenaded Sarajevo after the bombing of a bakery and by the destruction of libraries in Baghdad in the 13th century. The book’s palette is primarily a slate gray, save for pops of color in the child’s bright mustard sweater and the librarian’s flowing rose-colored scarf; the palette brightens when the librarian’s words stir the imaginations of the children. Though most townsfolk are pale-skinned, the librarian is a woman of color. (This book was reviewed digitally with 9.5-by-22.2-inch double-page spreads viewed at 95% of actual size.)

An earnest tale about the power of story. (Picture book. 5-10)

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-57687-945-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: POW!

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers.


From the Unicorn Rescue Society series , Vol. 1

Elliot’s first day of school turns out to be more than he bargained for.

Elliot Eisner—skinny and pale with curly brown hair—is a bit nervous about being the new kid. Thankfully, he hits it off with fellow new student, “punk rock”–looking Uchenna Devereaux, a black girl with twists (though they actually look like dreads in Aly’s illustrations). On a first-day field trip to New Jersey’s Pine Barrens, the pair investigates a noise in the trees. The cause? A Jersey Devil: a blue-furred, red-bellied and -winged mythical creature that looks like “a tiny dragon” with cloven hooves, like a deer’s, on its hind feet. Unwittingly, the duo bonds with the creature by feeding it, and it later follows them back to the bus. Unsurprisingly, they lose the creature (which they alternately nickname Jersey and Bonechewer), which forces them to go to their intimidating, decidedly odd teacher, Peruvian Professor Fauna, for help in recovering it. The book closes with Professor Fauna revealing the truth—he heads a secret organization committed to protecting mythical creatures—and inviting the children to join, a neat setup for what is obviously intended to be a series. The predictable plot is geared to newly independent readers who are not yet ready for the usual heft of contemporary fantasies. A brief history lesson given by a mixed-race associate of Fauna’s in which she compares herself to the American “melting pot” manages to come across as simultaneously corrective and appropriative.

Fantasy training wheels for chapter-book readers. (Fantasy. 7-10)

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-3170-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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From the Cavemice series , Vol. 1

Warp back in time for a prehistoric spinoff adventure with Geronimo Stilton’s ancestor, Geronimo Stiltonoot, in Old Mouse City.

Readers will find Geronimo Stiltonoot a familiar character, outfitted differently from descendant Stilton yet still running a newspaper and having wild adventures. In this introduction to prehistoric mouse life, someone has stolen the most powerful and important artifact housed by the Old Mouse City Mouseum: the Stone of Fire. It’s up to Stiltonoot and his fellow sleuth and friend, Hercule Poirat, to uncover not only the theft, but a dangerous plot that jeopardizes all of Old Mouse City. As stand-ins for the rest of the Stilton cast, Stiltonoot has in common with Stilton a cousin named Trap, a sister named Thea and a nephew named Benjamin. The slapstick comedy and design, busy with type changes and color, will be familiar for Stilton readers. The world is fictionalized for comedic effect, featuring funny uses for dinosaurs and cheeky references to how far back in time they are, with only the occasional sidebar that presents facts. The story takes a bit long to get started, spending a lot of time reiterating the worldbuilding information laid out before the first chapter. But once it does start, it is an adventure Stilton readers will enjoy. Geronimo Stiltonoot has the right combination of familiarity and newness to satisfy Stilton fans. (Fiction. 6-10)


Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-545-44774-4

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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