Fear of the unknown is the overriding theme, and yet there isn’t a satisfactory resolution—except for the very plump...

THE CHUPACABRA ATE THE CANDELABRA

What do chupacabras, candelabras, and cucarachas have in common?

Three silly goats, Jayna, Bumsie, and Pep, live in precarious proximity to the nemesis of cabras everywhere—the dreaded goat-sucker. Tired of waiting for the inevitable visit from their voracious neighbor, they brave the night armed only with a candelabra. Suddenly the lights go out; the chupacabra has eaten the candelabra! In the ensuing chaos, the goats discover the purple beastie’s three favorite comestibles are candelabras, cucarachas, and—whew!—goat…cheese. They sigh with relief and make sure to keep the chevre coming. Aranda’s whimsical, Mexican folk art–inspired ink, watercolor, and gouache illustrations are this story’s principal draw. The wacky villain is Easter-bunny cute (with the exception of its fanged shadow), and the mustard, pink, and orange goats are endearingly goofy with their exaggerated hair- and horn-styles. However, Nobleman’s slight and flighty tale’s subliminal message is troubling. The goats are so blinded by fear that they fail to notice that the chupacabra never threatens or demands. “Oh, would it be any trouble?” is its wistful response to their bumbling offers of food. Yet the goats continue to assume the perky winged omnivore has them in its sights. Aside from the initial confrontation, they fail to regain control of their lives. Instead, the hoofed trio voluntarily commit themselves to appeasing the chupacabra’s prodigious appetites indefinitely.

Fear of the unknown is the overriding theme, and yet there isn’t a satisfactory resolution—except for the very plump chupacabra. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-17443-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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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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Tender, charming, and a visual delight.

DRAGONBOY AND THE WONDERFUL NIGHT

From the Dragonboy series , Vol. 2

Dragonboy, Unicorngirl, and their friends are ready for a nighttime adventure.

The protagonist, a bald, light-skinned, dragon costume–wearing little boy introduced in Dragonboy (2021), is camping along with Unicorngirl, a dark-haired, light-skinned girl in a unicorn getup, and an assortment of stuffed toys. While Unicorngirl sleeps, the others rush out—the toys having come to life—excited for what they might see and experience. Simon, a sloth, is reluctant and admittedly frightened, but the friends are reassuring, and he finds himself enjoying their escapades. The characters find their own senses of delight, whether noting the swaying trees, spotting an owl, listening to night sounds, playing with fox cubs, or counting and wishing on stars. Eventually Unicorngirl, who has been lurking behind them, joins the fun, chasing fireflies. Napoleoni employs lovely imagery in description and dialogue, and the narrator speaks directly to readers, often using parenthetical asides, encouraging them to imagine, wish, and be happy with their friends. The characters have distinct personalities, and they come together as a group of good-natured, kind friends. The tale is beautifully augmented by inventive, detailed illustrations. The night is filled with blue-tinted trees that have eyes and seem to watch over the friends. Sharp-eyed young readers may spot tiny, colorful caterpillars, a frog, a spider, a snail, and other hidden creatures in shadowed blue camouflage. Even the moon shines a benevolent, calm smile upon them. (This book was reviewed digitally.)

Tender, charming, and a visual delight. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-46218-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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