A rousing read.

READ REVIEW

FLASHLIGHT NIGHT

The contrast between darkness and the area illuminated by a flashlight fascinates children, but this title kicks the fun up a notch.

Three kids—a white child with long hair and a baseball cap, another white youngster clutching a teddy bear, and a black boy with a flashlight (the narrator)—are heading for a summer sleepover in the treehouse. Wherever the storyteller focuses the light, the real transforms into the imagined, and the green/gray of night fills with subdued color. Observant eyes will note that even in the first scene, fence posts morph into tree trunks in the glow, and a striped cat becomes a tiger slinking into the “forest.” “FLASHLIGHT,” written once, is the subject of every rhymed couplet that follows: directed under the porch, it “Casts a glow upon a wall / down a dark and ancient hall / as inky shadows rise and fall, / dancing… / to no sound at all.” Hieroglyphs, columns, and an object that is half baseball/half ancient urn fill the space—and are those shadows dogs? Fist-bumping? (Closer examination reveals a humorous twist.) The modest swimming pool inspires a pirate escapade; a rope ladder links to a hot air balloon rescue. The delicious language and ingenious metamorphoses, rendered in pencil and colored digitally, are tied directly to classic books stacked near the sleeping bags.

A rousing read. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62979-493-8

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Boyds Mills

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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