Although this approach has been used before, rarely has it been executed with such hilarious results.

SEND FOR A SUPERHERO!

An over-the-top comic-book adventure within a bedtime story aims for laughs.

Veteran children’s-book writer Rosen (Aesop’s Fables, 2013, etc.) proves he knows what kids like and what they are like. The story begins as Dad reads a comic book to “Emily and little Elmer” at bedtime: Filth and Vacuum are on their way to Earth to take over the world. Within the comic book, savvy schoolboy Brad 40 tries to warn Miss Nice and Class Perfect. In the frame, Elmer gets excited by the story, and Emily becomes impatient with his interruptions. Back in the story, Brad 40 alerts Mayor Troubleshoot of the dreaded duo’s approach, and the Mayor mobilizes the heroes. Unfortunately, neither Steel Man, Super-Flying-Through-The-Air-Very-Fast-Man nor Incredibly-Big-Strong-Green Man can fend off Filth and Vacuum. Brad 40 calls on Extremely Boring Man to come to the rescue. With his gray-on-gray outfit and seemingly endless monologue about selecting what to wear, he has a slumberous effect on everyone, including Filth and Vacuum—and Elmer and Emily (as if, Dad!). McEwan alters the style of illustration and palette to cue the back and forth between the stories. The comic adventure is laid out in frames with urgent declarations and sound effects, with a printed-on-newsprint effect, whereas the scenes with Elmer and Emily are often on full-bleed pages and pulse with saturated colors.

Although this approach has been used before, rarely has it been executed with such hilarious results. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: May 27, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6438-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2014

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A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn.

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KNIGHT OWL

A young owl achieves his grand ambition.

Owl, an adorably earnest and gallant little owlet, dreams of being a knight. He imagines himself defeating dragons and winning favor far and wide through his brave exploits. When a record number of knights go missing, Owl applies to Knight School and is surprisingly accepted. He is much smaller than the other knights-in-training, struggles to wield weapons, and has “a habit of nodding off during the day.” Nevertheless, he graduates and is assigned to the Knight Night Watch. While patrolling the castle walls one night, a hungry dragon shows up and Owl must use his wits to avoid meeting a terrible end. The result is both humorous and heartwarming, offering an affirmation of courage and clear thinking no matter one’s size…and demonstrating the power of a midnight snack. The story never directly addresses the question of the missing knights, but it is hinted that they became the dragon’s fodder, leaving readers to question Owl’s decision to befriend the beast. Humor is supplied by the characters’ facial expressions and accented by the fact that Owl is the only animal in his order of big, burly human knights. Denise’s accomplished digital illustrations—many of which are full bleeds—often use a warm sepia palette that evokes a feeling of antiquity, and some spreads feature a pleasing play of chiaroscuro that creates suspense and drama.

A charming blend of whimsy and medieval heroism highlighting the triumph of brains over brawn. (Picture book. 4-8)

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-31062-8

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Christy Ottaviano Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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Action, clever humor, delightful illustrations and expectation-defying secret identities—when does the next one come out?

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THE PRINCESS IN BLACK

From the Princess in Black series , Vol. 1

Perfect Princess Magnolia has a secret—her alter ego is the Princess in Black, a superhero figure who protects the kingdom!

When nosy Duchess Wigtower unexpectedly drops by Princess Magnolia’s castle, Magnolia must protect her secret identity from the duchess’s prying. But then Magnolia’s monster alarm, a glitter-stone ring, goes off. She must save the day, leaving the duchess unattended in her castle. After a costume change, the Princess in Black joins her steed, Blacky (public identity: Frimplepants the unicorn), to protect Duff the goat boy and his goats from a shaggy, blue, goat-eating monster. When the monster refuses to see reason, Magnolia fights him, using special moves like the “Sparkle Slam” and the “Twinkle Twinkle Little Smash.” The rounded, cartoony illustrations featuring chubby characters keep the fight sequence soft and comical. Watching the fight, Duff notices suspicious similarities between the Princess in Black and Magnolia—quickly dismissed as “a silly idea”—much like the duchess’s dismissal of some discovered black stockings as being simply dirty, as “princesses don’t wear black.” The gently ironic text will amuse readers (including adults reading the book aloud). The large print and illustrations expand the book to a longish-yet-manageable length, giving newly independent readers a sense of accomplishment. The ending hints at another hero, the Goat Avenger.

Action, clever humor, delightful illustrations and expectation-defying secret identities—when does the next one come out? (Fantasy. 5-8)

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7636-6510-4

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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