Stereotypes are oh-so-satisfyingly turned on their heads.

WITCHY THINGS

From the Égalité series

In this Italian import by way of Spain, when a witch’s potion goes wrong, she sets out to do some other witchy things only to have a child question her actions.

Humorous and quirky illustrations accompany this equally whimsical tale of a witch whose potion doesn’t work. “For the love of STINKING SKUNK FARTS!” Her hair is still blue. She would rather her hair were “BLOOD RED, OR ASH GREY, or perhaps BOOGER GREEN.” In a bad mood and wanting to prove she is “A REAL WITCH, a really BAD ONE” she sets out to snatch a child. Soon she spies a red-haired, white boy named Adam, who is playing with dolls. Assuming he’s a naughty brat playing with his sister’s dolls, Adam becomes her target. A circular conversation ensues whereby Adam’s persistent, repeated “BUT WHY?” turns the witch’s stated intentions back on her. As it turns out, Adam loves styling hair, and after styling the witch’s hair she declares it to be “the MOST INCREDIBLE SORCERY I’ve ever seen!” Adam helps the witch to see it is more important to “do THINGS YOU LIKE, just because you like them” than “witchy things to FEEL more like a witch.” This clever tale of upended expectations was winner of the Italian children’s literature prize Premio Narrare La Paritá (Narrating Equality Award) under its original title, Turchina la strega. An equally delightful Spanish edition, Cosas de bruja, translated by Raúl Zanabria and Luis Amavisca, publishes simultaneously.

Stereotypes are oh-so-satisfyingly turned on their heads. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-84-17673-60-4

Page Count: 40

Publisher: nubeOCHO

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history.

THE SCARECROW

Ferry and the Fans portray a popular seasonal character’s unlikely friendship.

Initially, the protagonist is shown in his solitary world: “Scarecrow stands alone and scares / the fox and deer, / the mice and crows. / It’s all he does. It’s all he knows.” His presence is effective; the animals stay outside the fenced-in fields, but the omniscient narrator laments the character’s lack of friends or places to go. Everything changes when a baby crow falls nearby. Breaking his pole so he can bend, the scarecrow picks it up, placing the creature in the bib of his overalls while singing a lullaby. Both abandon natural tendencies until the crow learns to fly—and thus departs. The aabb rhyme scheme flows reasonably well, propelling the narrative through fall, winter, and spring, when the mature crow returns with a mate to build a nest in the overalls bib that once was his home. The Fan brothers capture the emotional tenor of the seasons and the main character in their panoramic pencil, ballpoint, and digital compositions. Particularly poignant is the close-up of the scarecrow’s burlap face, his stitched mouth and leaf-rimmed head conveying such sadness after his companion goes. Some adults may wonder why the scarecrow seems to have only partial agency, but children will be tuned into the problem, gratified by the resolution.

A welcome addition to autumnal storytelling—and to tales of traditional enemies overcoming their history. (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-247576-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

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Kids may choose differently at the pumpkin patch after reading this tale, though any deeper message may be lost on them.

STUMPKIN

A stemless pumpkin who isn’t chosen gets the best Halloween of all.

On the shelves outside a shop in a busy city, a shopkeeper makes a display of orange pumpkins and a single yellow gourd. They are all sizes and shapes and have lovely stems, save for one. Poor Stumpkin worries that, despite his good qualities, his stemlessness will prevent him from becoming a jack-o’-lantern like all the other pumpkins that go home with customers to decorate the windows across the street. On Halloween night, he alone is left (even the gourd went home with someone!). So the shopkeeper scoops him up. The spreads that follow are marvelous, wordless creations that will delight young readers: A black spread is followed by one with an orange-rimmed white triangle on the verso, then one with similar triangles on both pages. “Stumpkin wouldn’t be getting a window. And he wouldn’t be getting a new home. // He already had a home.” The final page shows Stumpkin as a jack-o’-lantern back on the shelves with the shopkeeper’s friendly black cat. Though undoubtedly feel-good, the book may leave readers wondering exactly what it’s saying about Stumpkin’s physical irregularity—is it some kind of disability metaphor? The city sights, people, and animals other than the cat are all black silhouettes, keeping the focus on Stumpkin.

Kids may choose differently at the pumpkin patch after reading this tale, though any deeper message may be lost on them. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5344-1362-7

Page Count: 56

Publisher: Atheneum

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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