A preschool sibling to Adam Rex’s The True Meaning of Smekday (2007).

READ REVIEW

TOYS IN SPACE

Keenly intelligent artwork teeters on the delicious borderline of scariness in a nighttime toy adventure.

A boy runs off the page. “That summer night, for the first time, the toys were left outside.” In the green grass lie seven small playthings. The sky darkens; stars emerge. The toys are quiet, then fretful and panicky—so WonderDoll tells a story. In it, a spaceship beams them all upward. How disconcerting! The alien “probably likes to eat pink felt!” speculates Pink Horse. “It might drool at the toys!” quivers Dinosaur. “Someone might get their stuffing probed!” worries Small Sheep. But the alien looks like a glove wearing pajamas—and it’s sobbing. Hoctopize the alien grieves its own lost snuggle object. The spaceship holds thousands of toys that Hoctopize has collected from gardens all over Earth, seeking its missing Cuddles. Tiny labels catalogue the stolen creatures’ origins (“Picnic Table, Front Lawn, 37 Spoon Drift, West Cutlery”). This tale has a heart of gold, while the art uses comic-book sensibility (horizontal and vertical panels; speech bubbles; ever-changing angles) and a savvy aesthetic to prevent any hint of saccharine. Does it matter whether the journey was WonderDoll’s invention? Blending edginess and childhood reality (the uniqueness of one’s own stuffed toy), this will satisfy many tastes.

A preschool sibling to Adam Rex’s The True Meaning of Smekday (2007). (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: May 14, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-97812-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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Though the story is simply told, the overall effect is somewhat cryptic, making it a challenge to connect with these...

FREDDIE & GINGERSNAP FIND A CLOUD TO KEEP

From the Freddie & Gingersnap series

Two friends off on an adventure have an unexpected encounter that leads to new discoveries and a sense of satisfaction.

Readers familiar with their eponymous first outing (2014) will remember that Freddie, a skinny green dinosaur with sharp teeth, and Gingersnap, a pink and purple dragon with a bow on her single, straggly hair, overcame their differences to become friends. Newcomers, however, may have a bit more trouble initially figuring out just what kinds of animals they are and why they are tangled together, flying through the sky (courtesy of Gingersnap’s wings) in search of clouds. Straightforward sentences capture their mildly contentious debate about whether anyone can own a cloud. Then suddenly they come upon a hot air balloon with two singing children inside. Mistaking the balloon for a cloud, both are captivated by how friendly and engaging this particular “cloud” is—even more so when the young pilot apparently conjures up a magical thunderstorm. Black outlines and intense colors show up well against the mostly blue backgrounds, while the textures of paper and paint add visual interest. Like its predecessor, this also features a double gatefold midway through; however, this one does little to enhance the slight plot or heighten the atmosphere.

Though the story is simply told, the overall effect is somewhat cryptic, making it a challenge to connect with these characters and their quest. (song lyrics, score [not seen]) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4231-5976-6

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2014

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This friendship tale doesn’t shine.

THE NIGHT THE STARS WENT OUT

All work and no play does more than make Alien a dull guy.

Alien’s job is to shine stars, and that’s all he does—no play, no hobbies, no fun, no friends. That is, until the day when the stars go out completely. Alien follows his manual, but the stars are still dark, so he calls the Star Helpline. They suggest a magic star varnish sold only on faraway Earth. Off Alien goes. But he’s going to need lots of help—where to find the varnish?—and to add to his problems, aliens float on Earth. Luckily, a young white, blond boy named George and his dog happen along to lend a hand. After getting so much help from George, it would seem rude to refuse his invitation to play despite how dire Alien’s problem is. But perhaps play—and a friend—is just what Alien needs after all. Readers never really feel Alien’s tension, as the book seemingly flits from one problem to the next, each easily solved quite serendipitously. Hughes’ illustrations, which appear to be digital, show Alien as a rounded blue cylinder with ink arms, legs, ears, and antennae and a darker blue nose that begins at the top of his head and looks like an upside-down T. Inexplicably, the duo’s having fun on the playground in daytime, until Alien’s smile triggers the stars’ shining, and all of a sudden, it’s night.

This friendship tale doesn’t shine. (Picture book. 4-7)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-62370-745-3

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Capstone Young Readers

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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