This depiction rings true in its portrayal of the paralysis of fear and the power of the right circumstances to motivate...


George’s fear of the dark is clear from the cover, where the bedsheets are drawn up to his nose; young listeners will want to know if this ends well.

In the daylight, the blond protagonist is fearless. He scales tall trees, rescues damsels in distress and downs insects in a single gulp. The darkened bedroom, however, has him quivering at the threshold. Valentine creates just the right balance of humor and sympathy around her character. Readers will chuckle at his rigid body—parallel to the floor, as his father attempts to pry him from the door—and at the whites of his terrified eyes in the total blackness of the next spread. The gouache-and–colored-pencil illustrations are rendered with visible graphite strokes for these nighttime scenes. This choice adds to the tension on pages where familiar objects appear to have menacing expressions. George’s teddy bear and pajamas (both red) stand out, so when he accidently tosses his blanket-wrapped companion across the room during the climax, observant viewers will know something before George does. The boy’s empathy for another (his bear is scared too) prompts him to summon his courage, venture past the shark-shaped laundry basket and conquer his debilitating emotions.

This depiction rings true in its portrayal of the paralysis of fear and the power of the right circumstances to motivate change. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 11, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-449-81334-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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Just the thing to get uncertain youngsters jazzed for a first day—at school or anywhere.


Barnes and Brantley-Newton team up for a follow-up to The King of Kindergarten (2019).

From the very first page, it’s clear that young MJ Malone is ready to face the world—and school. Once Mom bestows her with a glittery tiara and dubs her the queen of kindergarten, MJ is determined to fulfill her duties—brighten up every room she enters, treat others with kindness, and offer a helping hand. Barnes infuses each page with humor and a sense of grace as the immensely likable MJ makes the most of her first day. Barnes’ prose is entertaining and heartwarming, while Brantley-Newton’s vivid and playful artwork will be easily recognizable for anyone who’s seen her work (Grandma’s Purse, 2018; Becoming Vanessa, 2021). The illustrator adds verve to the bold young heroine’s character—from the colorful barrettes to the textured appearance of her adorable denim jumper, the girl has style and substance. MJ Malone embodies the can-do spirit every parent hopes to spark in their own children, though even shy kindergarteners will gladly find a friend in her. MJ and her family are Black; her classroom is diverse. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Just the thing to get uncertain youngsters jazzed for a first day—at school or anywhere. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: May 24, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-11142-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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Uncomplicated and worthwhile for any age.


Parr focuses his simplistic childlike art and declarative sentences on gratitude for the pleasures and wonders of a child’s everyday life.

Using images of both kids and animals, each colorful scene in bold primary colors declaims a reason to be thankful. “I am thankful for my hair because it makes me unique” shows a yellow-faced child with a wild purple coiffure, indicating self-esteem. An elephant with large pink ears happily exclaims, “I am thankful for my ears because they let me hear words like ‘I love you.’ ” Humor is interjected with, “I am thankful for underwear because I like to wear it on my head.” (Parents will hope that it is clean, but potty-humor–loving children probably won’t care.) Children are encouraged to be thankful for feet, music, school, vacations and the library, “because it is filled with endless adventures,” among other things. The book’s cheery, upbeat message is clearly meant to inspire optimistic gratitude; Parr exhorts children to “remember some [things to be thankful for] every day.”

Uncomplicated and worthwhile for any age. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-316-18101-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2012

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