Wears its agenda on its sleeve—but not heavily enough to tear the spandex.



There’s a newcomer in the Fortress of Awesome, and Awesome Man doesn’t (want to) like it one bit.

Having given their costumed legend-in-his-own-mind both anger issues to work through and a (poorly preserved) secret identity in The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man (2011), Chabon and Parker truck in a new challenge. Rumors of a rival superhero coming to town (who could it be? Steel Tornado? Glue Girl?) pitch Awesome Man into a funk. At first it looks like his worst fears are realized. Losing his colorful costume and chiseled physique in the shiny, bright scenes to become a seemingly ordinary lad, he accompanies younger sib “Sister Sinister” into the house to meet…bald, ultratiny Captain Stinky. Awesome Man is unimpressed—until, that is, the interloper exhibits multiple superpowers, including an impressive scream and a green and mucky Slime Blast. “Maybe the new kid is going to be okay!” The parentally suggested prospect of being followed around by an adoring little brother confirms this attitude change (“I didn’t know I was getting a sidekick!”), and by the end, Captain Stinky has been transformed to Awesome Boy. The transition occurs with unlikely speed, but most young crime fighters and world savers with growing families of their own will both understand Awesome Man’s anxiety and agree that family changes are better embraced than fought.

Wears its agenda on its sleeve—but not heavily enough to tear the spandex. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-287509-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy.


Robo-parents Diode and Lugnut present daughter Cathode with a new little brother—who requires, unfortunately, some assembly.

Arriving in pieces from some mechanistic version of Ikea, little Flange turns out to be a cute but complicated tyke who immediately falls apart…and then rockets uncontrollably about the room after an overconfident uncle tinkers with his basic design. As a squad of helpline techies and bevies of neighbors bearing sludge cake and like treats roll in, the cluttered and increasingly crowded scene deteriorates into madcap chaos—until at last Cath, with help from Roomba-like robodog Sprocket, stages an intervention by whisking the hapless new arrival off to a backyard workshop for a proper assembly and software update. “You’re such a good big sister!” warbles her frazzled mom. Wiesner’s robots display his characteristic clean lines and even hues but endearingly look like vaguely anthropomorphic piles of random jet-engine parts and old vacuum cleaners loosely connected by joints of armored cable. They roll hither and thither through neatly squared-off panels and pages in infectiously comical dismay. Even the end’s domestic tranquility lasts only until Cathode spots the little box buried in the bigger one’s packing material: “TWINS!” (This book was reviewed digitally with 9-by-22-inch double-page spreads viewed at 52% of actual size.)

A retro-futuristic romp, literally and figuratively screwy. (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-544-98731-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Clarion Books

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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While the amusing scenario may prove to be more a nostalgia trip for adult readers than something today’s kids will...


Weekly Sunday visits from their two aunts and one uncle are so disagreeable that three children take steps to alter the atmosphere through some harmlessly exaggerated imitation.

Each Sunday afternoon the family guests arrive, heavily plop themselves on the living room furniture, and make negative, complaining and resigned statements. “Oy,” says Aunt Essy. “Feh,” says Aunt Chanah. “So?” says Uncle Sam. “That was all they ever said!” Despite the children’s parents’ attempts to make pleasant conversation or the children’s enthusiastic play-acting performed for the guests, the reaction is always the same uncongenial three words. Ink-and-watercolor illustrations depict Essy, Chanah and Sam with unflattering caricatures of stereotypical adult Jewish characters, with clownishly large noses, slouchy, overweight bodies and unsmiling faces. In exasperation, the children each take a role and comically mimic their aunts’ and uncle’s behavior, forcing laughter and recognition. This mishpocheh now redeems itself with a newfound willingness to tell family stories and loving childhood memories; the palette here modulates from muted tones to bright, sunny colors.

While the amusing scenario may prove to be more a nostalgia trip for adult readers than something today’s kids will immediately recognize, they will appreciate the overall sentiment even if they miss the Yiddish essence. Nu? (Picture book. 5-7)

Pub Date: April 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-55498-148-9

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013

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