Safe to stay home from this trip.

TOUCANIA

An explorer visits an island of fantasy animals in this Quebecois import translated from French.

Amelia’s off on an expedition. She’s a grown-up, but when she was little, her grandfather found an unusual island and told her about it. He went only once, and she too can go only once: À la Brigadoon, it’s accessible for a single day every 50 years. Amelia’s knowledge of the island comes from her grandfather, who’s invoked repeatedly. Frequent exclamation marks (“She’s smiling so hard that her cheeks hurt!”) don’t enliven the bland present-tense prose or successfully force excitement. The island’s mythical fauna thrill Amelia, but while they’re conceptually whimsical—merbears, hedgemunks, howlverines, koalaroceroses—both the animals and the setting are pale and lackluster. For an island with “intense heat,” scents of vanilla and nectar, colors that “overwhelmed” Amelia’s grandfather, and “beauty [that’s] astonishing,” the low-intensity hues are watery and washed-out, and repetitive background patterns evoke wallpaper. Amelia, like her grandfather, holds the title of “doctor,” but her trip emphasizes delight, not research. Given that, and given the implied tropicality of the island, the whole piece has a whiff of colonialist tourism: Amelia and her grandfather both carve their initials into a tree; the island has a “real name” they never learn; and Amelia presents White. Her grandfather, shown only in black and white, has a swarthy complexion.

Safe to stay home from this trip. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-4598-2523-9

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Orca

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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Inspiring, adventurous fun for aspirational kids.

SADIE SPROCKET BUILDS A ROCKET

A little girl’s imaginative plan to become an astronaut and be the first to travel to Mars really takes off.

Together with a crew of stuffed animals (owl, rabbit, and teddy bear), Sadie Sprocket does her research, gathers materials to build her spaceship, and, with support from family and friends—and media coverage—embarks on her historic journey. Rhyming quatrains tell the story of how Sadie patiently reads, cooks, and records important data during the 100-day interplanetary journey. And then: “The Earth behind, so far away, / was now a tiny dot. / Then Sadie cried, ‘There’s planet Mars! / It’s smaller than I thought!’ ” After landing and gathering 20 bags of samples, Sadie and crew are stuck in a red sandstorm while trying to take off again. But with Sadie’s determination and can-do spirit, they blast off, safely returning to Earth with future heroic space-exploration ideas in mind. Spiky cartoons transform a child’s playroom into an outer-space venue, complete with twinkling stars and colorful planets. Sadie presents White while her encouraging fans feature more diversity. An addendum includes brief facts about Mars and a handful of women space scientists. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-17-inch double-page spreads viewed at 50% of actual size.)

Inspiring, adventurous fun for aspirational kids. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5420-1803-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A delicious triumph over fear of night creatures.

PIPPA'S NIGHT PARADE

Pippa conquers a fear of the creatures that emerge from her storybooks at night.

Pippa’s “wonderfully wild imagination” can sometimes run “a little TOO wild.” During the day, she wears her “armor” and is a force to be reckoned with. But in bed at night, Pippa worries about “villains and monsters and beasts.” Sharp-toothed and -taloned shadows, dragons, and pirates emerge from her storybooks like genies from a bottle, just to scare her. Pippa flees to her parents’ room only to be brought back time and again. Finally, Pippa decides that she “needs a plan” to “get rid of them once and for all.” She decides to slip a written invitation into every book, and that night, they all come out. She tries subduing them with a lasso, an eye patch, and a sombrero, but she is defeated. Next, she tries “sashes and sequins and bows,” throwing the fashion pieces on the monsters, who…“begin to pose and primp and preen.” After that success, their fashion show becomes a nightly ritual. Clever Pippa’s transformation from scared victim of her own imagination to leader of the monster pack feels fairly sudden, but it’s satisfying nonetheless. The cartoony illustrations effectively use dynamic strokes, shadow, and light to capture action on the page and the feeling of Pippa's fears taking over her real space. Pippa and her parents are brown-skinned with curls of various textures.

A delicious triumph over fear of night creatures. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-9300-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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