A lightweight offering undermined by awkward writing.

10 LITTLE NINJAS

The familiar ditty about little monkeys jumping on a bed is reimagined with a racially diverse group of 10 children going to imaginative lengths to resist bedtime.

Sneaking out of their room to indulge in a variety of lively games, they are repeatedly rounded up by their Daddy and Mama (who are ambiguously tan and dark-haired) before everyone finally collapses into peaceful slumber. Unfortunately the text lacks finesse (“6 rowdy cowboys lassoing the rails—one loop swooped and, whoops!, it failed”), featuring word choices that feel contrived (“8 rapid racers revving out the gate—one left late and couldn’t drive straight!”). It is Wragg’s cheery illustrations in rich jewel tones that steal the show. The children’s bright, cartoonlike faces are expressive, and their costumes—the tigers and dragons, in particular—are truly adorable. The 10 scenarios described are ethnically and culturally nonspecific (astronaut, pirate, firefighter) with the notable exception of the first, ninja. It is portrayed via a bewildering miscellany of Asian props: the tree pose from Indian yoga, karate outfits, and a conical straw hat of the variety favored by rice farmers. The text here refers to the mother as “sensei,” and she is subsequently described in the context of the other scenarios (pilot, sheriff, etc.), a choice that may initially confuse children.

A lightweight offering undermined by awkward writing. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-553-53497-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2016

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A cozy read for bibliophiles.

SNOWMAN'S STORY

With echoes of “Frosty the Snowman” in the background, a snowman’s storybook within this wordless book delivers a comic wintertime romp.

Woodland creatures build a snowman, giving him a green book as a finishing touch. This addition comes right after a windswept top hat lands on his head, vivifying him à la Frosty. Hidden inside is a rabbit (it is a magic hat, after all); attentive readers will have seen the hat first on frontmatter pages and then with the bunny in the double-page spreads before the early ones devoted to the snowman’s construction. The snowman reads his book aloud to the animals, with the rabbit surreptitiously listening in, its ears poking out of the top of the hat. When the others all drift off to sleep, the bunny emerges and steals away with the book. A chase ensues across snowy terrain and through a series of pages (perhaps a few too many for good pacing) replete with comic-style panels. When the animals and snowman confront the rabbit in its tree-hollow home, its motivation for book thievery is revealed: This bunny has a family and wishes to share the story with its children. All’s well that ends well, and the animals convene (safely outside and away from the rabbit family’s crackling fireplace) to read together.

A cozy read for bibliophiles. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4778-4787-9

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2014

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THIS BOOK IS GRAY

A gray character tries to write an all-gray book.

The six primary and secondary colors are building a rainbow, each contributing the hue of their own body, and Gray feels forlorn and left out because rainbows contain no gray. So Gray—who, like the other characters, has a solid, triangular body, a doodle-style face, and stick limbs—sets off alone to create “the GRAYest book ever.” His book inside a book shows a peaceful gray cliff house near a gray sea with gentle whitecaps; his three gray characters—hippo, wolf, kitten—wait for their arc to begin. But then the primaries arrive and call the gray scene “dismal, bleak, and gloomy.” The secondaries show up too, and soon everyone’s overrunning Gray’s creation. When Gray refuses to let White and Black participate, astute readers will note the flaw: White and black (the colors) had already been included in the early all-gray spreads. Ironically, Gray’s book within a book displays calm, passable art while the metabook’s unsubtle illustrations and sloppy design make for cramped and crowded pages that are too busy to hold visual focus. The speech-bubble dialogue’s snappy enough (Blue calls people “dude,” and there are puns). A convoluted moral muddles the core artistic question—whether a whole book can be gray—and instead highlights a trite message about working together.

Low grade. (glossary) (Picture book. 4-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4340-3

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: July 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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