A well-meaning miss.

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SAM, THE MOST SCAREDY-CAT KID IN THE WHOLE WORLD

A LEONARDO, THE TERRIBLE MONSTER COMPANION

A little over a decade after Leonardo, the Terrible Monster (2005) failed to scare even Sam, “the most scaredy-cat kid in the whole world,” both monster and little white boy, now friends, are back.

Sam, readers learn, is still scared of everything except Leonardo, so they will not be surprised at his abject terror at the sight of monster Frankenthaler and her friend Kerry, a little black girl. Being “the second-most scaredy-cat kid in the whole world,” Kerry is equally terrified. Sam’s “AAAAAAAAH”s and Kerry’s “EEEEEEEEEK”s comically dominate the top halves of their respective sides of this double-page spread. Leonardo and Frankenthaler jump to the same, wrong conclusion: that each child is afraid of the unfamiliar monster. Apparently, however, it’s the unfamiliar human that provokes such fright, though the book leaves it up to readers to decide what’s so scary about each completely un–scary-looking child. A skilled, confident adult could use this moment to tease out a rich discussion. For their parts, Leonardo and Frankenthaler just leave it up to Sam and Kerry to “figure it out,” leading to a rushed, superficial exploration of commonalities and differences. As a companion to Leonardo, this shares its predecessor’s look and expectation-toppling gag, but it does not have the first book’s effervescence nor its perfect pacing—and, crucially, it doesn’t get at the heart of what it seems to want readers to understand.

A well-meaning miss. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Sept. 5, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-368-00214-1

Page Count: 48

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Lost and found was never so riotously funny or emotionally draining.

DON'T FORGET DEXTER!

A lost toy goes through an existential crisis.

The setup is on the copyright page. Amid the markers of a universally recognizable waiting room—fish tank, chairs against the wall, receptionist’s window, kids’ coloring table—is a tiny orange T. Rex with a dialogue balloon: “Hello?” A turn of the page brings Dexter T. Rexter into close view, and he explains his dilemma directly to readers. He and his best friend came for a checkup, but Jack’s disappeared. Maybe readers can help? But when Jack is still MIA, Dexter becomes disconsolate, believing his friend might have left him behind on purpose; maybe he likes another toy better? Dexter weighs his good qualities against those he lacks, and he comes up short. But when readers protest (indicated by a change in Dexter’s tone after the turn of the page), Dexter gains the determination he needs to make a plan. Unfortunately, though hilariously, his escape plan fails. But luckily, a just-as-upset black boy comes looking for Dexter, and the two are reunited. Ward’s ink, colored-pencil, and cut-paper illustrations give readers a toy’s view of the world and allow children to stomp in Dexter’s feet for a while, his facial expressions giving them lots of clues to his feelings. Readers will be reminded of both Knuffle Bunny and Scaredy Squirrel, but Dexter is a character all his own.

Lost and found was never so riotously funny or emotionally draining. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5420-4727-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Two Lions

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2017

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Sadly, the storytelling runs aground.

LITTLE RED SLEIGH

A little red sleigh has big Christmas dreams.

Although the detailed, full-color art doesn’t anthropomorphize the protagonist (which readers will likely identify as a sled and not a sleigh), a close third-person text affords the object thoughts and feelings while assigning feminine pronouns. “She longed to become Santa’s big red sleigh,” reads an early line establishing the sleigh’s motivation to leave her Christmas-shop home for the North Pole. Other toys discourage her, but she perseveres despite creeping self-doubt. A train and truck help the sleigh along, and when she wishes she were big, fast, and powerful like them, they offer encouragement and counsel patience. When a storm descends after the sleigh strikes out on her own, an unnamed girl playing in the snow brings her to a group of children who all take turns riding the sleigh down a hill. When the girl brings her home, the sleigh is crestfallen she didn’t reach the North Pole. A convoluted happily-ever-after ending shows a note from Santa that thanks the sleigh for giving children joy and invites her to the North Pole next year. “At last she understood what she was meant to do. She would build her life up spreading joy, one child at a time.” Will she leave the girl’s house to be gifted to other children? Will she stay and somehow also reach ever more children? Readers will be left wondering. (This book was reviewed digitally with 11-by-18-inch double-page spreads viewed at 31.8% of actual size.)

Sadly, the storytelling runs aground. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-72822-355-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Sourcebooks Wonderland

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2020

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