A strange, colorfully illustrated tale of magic and friendship that sometimes lacks clarity.

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KING OF THE MOON

From the Mr. Kind Stories series , Vol. 2

A man with a special sandwich visits the King of the Moon in this picture book.

Clyde —a pink-skinned man with “stained yellow” hair, outlandishly colored clothing, a pocket watch two hours behind, and gloves with holes—is best friends with an apple tree named Sam. Clyde wishes to go to the moon. While pondering how to get there, he realizes he can’t share his “bread, cheese, and ham” sandwich with his “dear, good friend Sam” without some tricks. He digs a hole, buries the sandwich, and voilà: A staircase to the moon appears. Clyde travels up the staircase to meet the brown-skinned King of the Moon, encounters a talking table with a potion that affects a person’s size—reminiscent of Lewis Carroll—and returns to Sam with some magical lunar water. As in Kind and Pollitt’s earlier fable, The Story of Bluff (2018), the author’s rhymes are offbeat. They often fall into obvious patterns, but sometimes they leave readers searching for the rhyme. Pollitt’s geometric digital cartoon images are whimsical and surreal, emphasizing the oddness of the setting. They depict Clyde’s encounter with first the giant, brown-skinned Queen of the Moon (shown only at a distance) and then the tiny King of the Moon. But there’s no discernible moral to this story, and the tale never explains Clyde’s desire to travel to the moon or why a sandwich causes a staircase to materialize.

A strange, colorfully illustrated tale of magic and friendship that sometimes lacks clarity.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-67240-715-1

Page Count: 36

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2020

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Uneven pacing and clunky writing undermine this examination of trauma and PTSD.

IF WE WERE GIANTS

Matthews, of the Dave Matthews Band, and co-author Smith offer a fantasy that explores the damage done by violence inflicted by one people against another.

Ten-year-old Kirra lives in an idyllic community hidden for generations inside a dormant volcano. When she and her little brother make unwise choices that help bring the violent, spindly, gray-skinned Takers to her community—with devastating results—Kirra feels responsible and leaves the volcano. Four years later, Kirra’s been adopted into a family of Tree Folk that live in the forest canopy. Though there are many Tree Folk, individual families care for their own and are politely distant from others. Kirra, suffering from (unnamed) PTSD, evades her traumatic memories by avoiding what she calls “Memory Traps,” but when the Takers arrive in the forest, she must face her trauma and attempt to make a community of the Tree Folk if they’re to survive. Although Kirra’s struggles through trauma are presented with sympathy and realistically rendered, some characters’ choices are so patently foolish they baldly read like the plot devices they are. Additionally, much preparation goes into one line of defense while other obvious factors are completely ignored, further pushing the story’s credibility. Kirra is brown skinned, as is her first family; Tree Folk appear not to be racially homogenous; and the Takers are all gray skinned.

Uneven pacing and clunky writing undermine this examination of trauma and PTSD. (Fantasy. 10-14)

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4847-7871-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Native readers will see themselves as necessary heroes while readers of all walks will want to be their accomplices.

RACE TO THE SUN

A Diné teen teams up with her younger brother and her best friend to battle monsters threatening their world.

After seventh grader Nizhoni Begay senses a monster lurking in the stands during her basketball game, she tells her younger brother, Mac. When the monster kidnaps her father as part of a multilayered plot to lure her brother—the only one who knows her monster-spotting abilities—into servitude, kill her, and destroy the world, Nizhoni seeks help from her biracial best friend, Davery, whose mother is African American, his father, Diné. Aided by Mr. Yazzie, a stuffed horned-toad toy that can talk, and a cast of characters from Diné culture, the three kids embark on an adventurous trek to free Dad and stop the monsters. But even with powers inherited from monster-slaying ancestors, assistance from Holy People, and weapons fashioned from the Sun, Nizhoni will need to believe in herself while sacrificing what’s most important if she hopes to succeed. Fans of Hugo and Nebula winner Roanhorse (Ohkay Owingeh) will appreciate her fast-paced prose, page-turning chapter endings, and, most of all, strong female protagonist. By reimagining a traditional story in a contemporary context, populating it with faceted Native characters, and centering it on and around the Navajo Nation, Roanhorse shows that Native stories are active and alive.

Native readers will see themselves as necessary heroes while readers of all walks will want to be their accomplices. (glossary of Navajo terms, author’s note) (Fantasy. 8-12)

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-368-02466-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Rick Riordan Presents/Disney

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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