Very dear, but the message’s delivery is only partially successful.

IMAGINE A WOLF

A wolf speaks directly to readers about preconceptions.

On an abstract black-and–dark-gray spread, white text makes a request: “Close your eyes and imagine a wolf.” Two spreads later, a wolf shows up and asks, “Am I what you imagined?” This wolf sits cross-legged and slope-shouldered, holding a knitting project. An apron and high-heeled slides with cork soles complete the harmless impression. The wolf’s gentle eyes are painted with complex irises and shifting colors. This is no fairy-tale predator—but other characters don’t notice that. On the sidewalk, pigs (three, natch) clutch one another in fear; in the yarn store, humans (one in a red knit cap) whisper and stare. A passing skateboarder screams “WOOOLF!”—terrifying the poor yarn-carrying wolf enough to cause a stumble and fall into the street. This wolf does have sharp teeth—an intense close-up leaves no doubt—but uses them only to “hold the wool while my paw spins the wheel.” The knitting project? Sweaters for chilly sheep. Part of Platt’s compassionate message is crystal clear: This kind wolf doesn’t deserve street harassment or being brought to tears by prejudice. However, this wolf’s tender inner character is symbolized by outward appearance: Readers see from first glimpse that this wolf isn’t dangerous, which undermines the attempted decoupling of appearance from morality. Human characters’ skin is the background paper’s creamy white.

Very dear, but the message’s delivery is only partially successful. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Jan. 12, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-62414-932-0

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Page Street

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Inspiration, shrink wrapped.

WHAT THE ROAD SAID

From an artist, poet, and Instagram celebrity, a pep talk for all who question where a new road might lead.

Opening by asking readers, “Have you ever wanted to go in a different direction,” the unnamed narrator describes having such a feeling and then witnessing the appearance of a new road “almost as if it were magic.” “Where do you lead?” the narrator asks. The Road’s twice-iterated response—“Be a leader and find out”—bookends a dialogue in which a traveler’s anxieties are answered by platitudes. “What if I fall?” worries the narrator in a stylized, faux hand-lettered type Wade’s Instagram followers will recognize. The Road’s dialogue and the narration are set in a chunky, sans-serif type with no quotation marks, so the one flows into the other confusingly. “Everyone falls at some point, said the Road. / But I will always be there when you land.” Narrator: “What if the world around us is filled with hate?” Road: “Lead it to love.” Narrator: “What if I feel stuck?” Road: “Keep going.” De Moyencourt illustrates this colloquy with luminous scenes of a small, brown-skinned child, face turned away from viewers so all they see is a mop of blond curls. The child steps into an urban mural, walks along a winding country road through broad rural landscapes and scary woods, climbs a rugged metaphorical mountain, then comes to stand at last, Little Prince–like, on a tiny blue and green planet. Wade’s closing claim that her message isn’t meant just for children is likely superfluous…in fact, forget the just.

Inspiration, shrink wrapped. (Picture book. 6-8, adult)

Pub Date: March 23, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-26949-2

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends

Review Posted Online: April 8, 2021

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A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre.

SNOW PLACE LIKE HOME

From the Diary of an Ice Princess series

Ice princess Lina must navigate family and school in this early chapter read.

The family picnic is today. This is not a typical gathering, since Lina’s maternal relatives are a royal family of Windtamers who have power over the weather and live in castles floating on clouds. Lina herself is mixed race, with black hair and a tan complexion like her Asian-presenting mother’s; her Groundling father appears to be a white human. While making a grand entrance at the castle of her grandfather, the North Wind, she fails to successfully ride a gust of wind and crashes in front of her entire family. This prompts her stern grandfather to ask that Lina move in with him so he can teach her to control her powers. Desperate to avoid this, Lina and her friend Claudia, who is black, get Lina accepted at the Hilltop Science and Arts Academy. Lina’s parents allow her to go as long as she does lessons with grandpa on Saturdays. However, fitting in at a Groundling school is rough, especially when your powers start freak winter storms! With the story unfurling in diary format, bright-pink–highlighted grayscale illustrations help move the plot along. There are slight gaps in the storytelling and the pacing is occasionally uneven, but Lina is full of spunk and promotes self-acceptance.

A jam-packed opener sure to satisfy lovers of the princess genre. (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-338-35393-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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