Arbona’s teeming scenes should inspire both close observation and new compositions by young readers/artists.


Braids flying, bespectacled Martha heads home from school, vividly imagining what’s behind the windows lining an urban street.

While Martha, looking up, traverses each otherwise blank, white verso page by degrees, each recto’s deceptively staid, delicately rendered window “opens” along a centered gatefold, revealing multifarious black-and-white scenes with decidedly surreal touches. Behind a ledge with drooping potted plants, a veritable torrid zone thrives as a gardener tends its elaborate flora and fauna. A shuttered window hides vampires playing badminton among a colony of bats. A dainty fringed shade obscures a woman straight from Grimm, reading 101 Ways To Cook a Child as her cauldron bubbles. (Her intended victim, ostensibly having consumed the conspicuously included How To Escape, bolts right out of the picture.) French Canadian author/illustrator Arbona’s wordless tableaux include magical mushrooms, bioluminescent sea creatures, a sleeping giant, and a cozy library full of reading animals. Kids will appreciate the use of “almost 20” felt pens for these pictures, whose fine lines, crosshatching, and infinitesimal dots evoke Edward Gorey. The visual mayhem, meanwhile, channels Jon Agee, Fernando Krahn, and even Mad magazine. The 13th gatefold lands Martha at home in a cozy bedroom surrounded by objects that were transmogrified in earlier illustrations and where, flopped on the floor, the child draws. Most humans are as white as the page; people of color are tinted gray.

Arbona’s teeming scenes should inspire both close observation and new compositions by young readers/artists. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0136-0

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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


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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A delicious triumph over fear of night creatures.


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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