A bonny but uneven bit o’ tale telling.

PIRATE BABY

Six buccaneers and a baby.

When the salty sea dogs of the Ramshackle spot a makeshift raft sporting an audible and pungent infant, they are aghast. All the more so when they realize that they must find effective ways of feeding and changing the squalling tyke. Yet with a little ingenuity and a goat to give milk, the scalawags are soon enamored of the baby they dub Isla. Good thing too, as an encounter with a scary sea monster proves to be the battleground where a baby pirate can show her true worth. The pirates are a multicultural, softhearted crew, while Isla herself is a brown-skinned charmer. Utilizing a faux naif combination of watercolors and Photoshop, the art is high-energy if a bit slapdash when it comes to matters of scale and size. Alas, the pirates themselves could use a bit of personality, and a brief glimpse of a nearby ship of women pirates may leave readers wishing they could set sail with those wild ladies of the sea instead of this crew. Be sure to look for a number of Briticisms that survived this import’s trip across the ocean intact (example: the baby’s “nappy” emits a strong “pong”) as well as some inspired pirate names (there are “Plunderpuss” the cat, “Crossbones” the doctor, “McSquawk” the parrot, and so on).

A bonny but uneven bit o’ tale telling. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-91095-995-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Otter-Barry

Review Posted Online: Aug. 27, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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A strong series start.

GAME OVER, SUPER RABBIT BOY!

From the Press Start! series , Vol. 1

In a video game, a superpowered rabbit must rescue a singing dog that brings everyone happiness.

In the frame story, a brown-skinned human protagonist plays a video game on a handheld console evocative of the classic Nintendo Gameboy. The bulk of the book relates the game’s storyline: Animal Town is a peaceful place where everyone is delighted by Singing Dog, until the fun-hating King Viking (whose black-mustachioed, pink-skinned looks reference the Super Mario Brothers game series villain, Wario) uses his army of robots to abduct Singing Dog. To save Singing Dog—and fun—the animals send the fastest among them, Simon the Hedgehog, to get Super Rabbit Boy (who gains speed and jumping powers by eating special carrots) to save the day. The chapters take Super Rabbit Boy through video game levels, with classic, video game–style settings and enemies. Throughout the book, when the game’s player loses either a life in the game or the game entirely, the unnamed kid must choose to persevere and not give up. The storylines are differentiated by colorful art styles—cartoonish for the real world, 8-bit pixel-sprite–style for the game. The fast, repetitive plot uses basic, simple sentences and child-friendly objects of interest, such as lakes of lava, for children working on reading independence, while the nerdy in-jokes benefit adults reading with a child.

A strong series start. (Early reader. 5-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-338-03472-1

Page Count: 80

Publisher: Branches/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

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Birdsong began her career as a teacher, and the book will find repeated use in the classroom.

I WILL BE FIERCE

A multicultural girl-power manifesto featuring a feisty young girl who faces her day as a knight on an epic quest.

The unnamed narrator puts on her “armor” (a rainbow sweater) and fills her “treasure chest” (a backpack). Venturing forth to “explore new worlds,” she drives back “dragons” (neighborhood dogs on their walk), boards the “many-headed serpent” (her school bus, with schoolmates’ heads protruding from every window), and visits “the Mountain of Knowledge” (the school library) to “solve the mysteries of the unknown.” After standing up for her beliefs—by joining a classmate sitting alone in the cafeteria—the young girl returns home to rest in the lap of an older female relative, possibly a grandparent/primary caregiver, to prepare for the next day, when she can be “fierce again.” Birdsong’s repeated refrain—“I will be fierce!”—underlines the unambiguous message of this sassy picture book, and Chanani’s bold and energetic illustrations reinforce the text’s punchy, feminist-y declarations. They depict a joyously multiracial environment, consciously tackling stereotypes with an elderly, white, female bus driver and a groovy, Asian-presenting librarian with a green streak in her hair. The fierce protagonist herself has brown skin and fluffy, dark brown hair, and her caregiver also has brown skin.

Birdsong began her career as a teacher, and the book will find repeated use in the classroom. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: April 23, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-29508-8

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Roaring Brook Press

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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